William Bell Riley

William Bell Riley (March 22, 1861–December 5, 1947) was known as “The Grand Old Man of Fundamentalism.” Riley began his ministry as pastor of the First Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota and served there for forty-five years. Riley was the editor of The Christian Fundamentalist from 1891 to 1933. In 1919 Riley founded the World Christian Fundamentals Association. Theologically, Riley was a Baptist traditionalist. In 1923 Riley set up the Anti-Evolution League of Minnesota, which blossomed the following year into the Anti-Evolution League of America. While the anti-evolution crusade is often thought of as a Southern phenomenon, two of its foremost leaders, Riley and John Roach Straton, were from Minneapolis and New York City respectively. In the early 1920s Riley promoted a vigorous anti-evolutionary campaign in the Northwest and it was Riley’s World Christian Fundamentals Association that wired William Jennings Bryan urging him to act as counsel for the association in the Scopes Trial. Riley and Bryan tried to remove all teaching of evolution from public schools. One of the creationists in their movement, T. T. Martin claimed that German soldiers who killed Belgian and French children by giving them poisoned candy were angels compared to those who spread evolution ideas in schools. Riley also claimed that “an international Jewish-Bolshevik-Darwinist conspiracy to promote evolutionism in the classroom” was behind the changes in curriculum occurring in the 1920s. We still need to stand for right like Riley did just a few decades ago.


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