Randy Alcorn, a well-known pastor and director of Eternal Perspectives Ministries, has recounted the astonishing story of being imprisoned for pro-life work, losing his job and overcoming an $8.2 million judgment against him.
Back in the 1990’s, Randy says he was quite comfortable as a pastor of a large church he had founded a decade earlier. He was earning good money, had a steady flow of book royalties coming in, and was pastoring a thriving congregation.
Then, the Lord laid a specific a specific issues upon his heart — abortion. Soon, Alcorn was involved in civil protests outside abortion clinics and spending his time urging women to choose life and helping those who took the brave step to keep their baby.
As a board member of a pregnancy resources center, Randy said he and his wife even opened up their home to a pregnant teenager, “helping her place her baby for adoption in a Christian home” and also “had the joy of seeing her come to faith in Christ.”
But though Alcorn felt his new civil action was a necessary response to the abortion epidemic, it landed him in a fair bit of legal trouble over the following years. “We simply stood in front of the doors to advocate on behalf of unborn children scheduled to die. I did this nine times in a twelve month period and was arrested seven of those times,” he wrote.
Soon, however, the legal situation became worsened for the passionate pastor. Judges began to put pressure on Alcorn and his church family to pay compensation to the abortion clinics seeking to abort as many babies as possible, citing the fact that they had been prevented from doing so because of his presence at the clinic — thus, they had lost out on business earnings. The money paid by Alcorn would be given directly to the clinic for these procedures to be carried out.
Alcorn, however, was absolutely clear — he would not give a dime to the funding of a clear-cut murder. “I stood before a judge in Portland and told him I would pay anything I owed to anyone else, but I could not in good conscience willingly hand over money to people who would use it to kill babies,” he wrote. “I explained to the court and the media and all who were there the human rights of the unborn children, and the established history of civil disobedience to defend human rights.”
After his show of courage and brilliant articulation of the issues at stake, the judge responded with some extraordinary words: “One day you may see me out there standing on that sidewalk beside you. But today I am a judge and must follow the law.”
Randy was sent to jail for two days.
But despite the inconvenience of a few days behind bars, it was the increasingly crippling financial judgments that were to be Alcorn’s biggest challenge. At one stage, the courts issued a writ to ensure that a quarter of Alcorn’s wages would be remunerated to the abortion clinic.
Then, eventually, the courts became fed up with the lack of compensation the clinic in question was receiving — and decided to issue Alcorn with a stratospheric fine.
“On February 11, 1991, nine of the twelve jurors agreed to award the abortion clinic $8.2 million dollars,” he wrote. “It was the largest judgment ever against a group of peaceful protestors. It seemed likely our family would lose our house, and we would not be able to continue to send our children to the school they loved, Good Shepherd School.”
Despite the risk, however, Alcorn continued to stick by his beliefs and be bold in his refusal to fund abortions out of his own pocket — and he came up with a cunning plan to achieve this.
The pastor figured out that here was a legal loophole he could exploit — that if he paid himself minimum wage, the state was not at liberty garnish his earnings or take any substantial money away from him.
However, the court order continued to be extended, decades at a time, meaning Alcorn had to sacrifice his long-term financial wellbeing for the sake of his belief that the murder of innocent babies is wrong.
“I ended up making minimum wage for twenty years,” he said.
God worked it for good
Despite years of sacrifice and simple living, Alcorn went on to explain how the Lord used this whole ordeal for His glory, and blessed the Alcorn family in the process.
“I remember how unthinkably large $8.2 million seemed to be,” he wrote. “But despite that $8.2 million court judgment, we never lost our house and thanks to someone’s kindness, our daughters were able to continue attending our church school.”
Then, Alcorn started his new ministry, Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM).
“While paying me a minimum-wage salary and my wife Nanci a secretary’s salary, the ministry received all the royalties from my books. And wouldn’t you know it, suddenly I had books on the bestsellers list and royalties began to dramatically increase,” he explained, noting that one of the books was an apologetics handbook for people seeking answers to the Pro-Abortion argument — it has since become one of the bestselling pro-life books in history.
God, as pastor Randy would explain, really did turn the whole thing around for good.
“God provided faithfully and most of the time we didn’t even think about it,” Alcorn noted. “With joy in our hearts, now nearly thirty years later Nanci and I continue to give away 100 percent of the book royalties to a wide variety of Christian missions, famine relief, and pro-life work.”
“We have now given away over $8.2 million dollars in royalties—an amount that has now, ironically and delightfully, surpassed the judgment against us and the whole group of prolifers all those years ago!”
But does Pastor Randy ever wonder what he could have done with that $8 million if he hadn’t have given it away to pro-life organizations? “My answer is always the same,” he wrote. “Nothing that would have brought us nearly as much joy as we’ve found in giving it away.”