Country/Rock/Rap Artists Say Positive Message Of Video Is Being Overlooked: Property Owners Say Facility Used For Wrong Purpose, Without Permission
Darren Doyle, story, creek photos:
Several Edmonson County churches are not happy that a local outdoor baptizing facility at Rhoda Creek has been recently used in a rap video.
The video "Devil to Pay," which was shot by the country-rock/rap group "Twang and Round," fronted by members Vernon Roach (Twang) and Brad Davis (Round), depicts a funeral scene that takes place at the Beaver Dam Creek Baptizing Center in Rhoda, Edmonson County. Group members said that the song is actually a gospel-rap tune with a positive message and the reaction from the local Christian community has been anything but Christian.
Round (Davis) is the son of the late "Roundhead" Davis, and the grandson of former Edmonson County Sheriff Carlos Davis. He said the idea for the song came to him and he wanted to be part of a song that presented a message of redemption.
"My dad lived a real rough life," said Round. "Growing up, he was like 'son, you want to sow good seeds. If you sow bad seeds you're going to reap what you sow, there's a price to pay'".
Round said he had conviction on his heart with the idea of the song "Devil To Pay," which came together in a writing session in Nashville. "Everybody fell in love with it and they were like, 'yeah, man-let's do that.'"
Twang (Roach) expounded on the origin of the song and why it was important to the group to move forward with it.
"Some of the first raps I ever wrote were gospel raps," he said. "Round and I both felt spiritually moved to create art that can bring such a good message to anyone--all generations of people."
Round said once the song was cut in the studio, the planning of the video begun. He said that his first thought for the video location was Joppa Church, located in Mammoth Cave National Park, but he said he thought there would be problems with obtaining permission or permits since the church was on National Park property.
"I got to thinking about the baptizing hole and how beautiful it was," he said. "It's like an outdoor church. I've been all over the country and out of the country and I've never seen nothing like the Rhoda baptizing hole. When I sent the pictures to the director, he fell in love with it."
So with a positive message and a familiar location, where is the controversy? Those not happy with the video seem to have two issues. 1. They say the positive message is a little confusing because much of the band's previously released material promotes alcohol, contains strong sexual content, and is marked for explicit lyrics. (and) 2. The Beaver Dam Baptizing Center is private property and is to be used for religious ceremonies only, according to the property trustees.
According to the trustees, the positive message that the band says they are trying to deliver is only valid if the rest of their songs moving forward follow suit. According to a released bio from the band, they also market their own brand of moonshine. Most all churches that use and maintain the facility teach abstinence from the sale and use of alcohol. Trustees say that if future songs consist of alcohol and sexual content, there is really no message of redemption.
According to the County Clerk's office, the property is owned by a board of trustees that is made up of five different local churches: Pleasant Union, Chalybeate, Fairview, Mt. Zion (Warren County) and Beaver Dam. Each church has one representative that makes up the board of trustees. The board's treasurer is retired Edmonson County educator Tommy Bolton, who now works in the local PVA office.
Bolton said that before the board took ownership of the property, it was owned by Clay Skaggs. Skaggs, along with five other churches, set up the original board and a contract was signed between Skaggs and the board in 1964. The contract states that the use of the property would be so "that any and all churches of any denomination of any Faith shall have the right and privilege to use this place for the purpose of Baptizing."
"No one asked if they could do this," said Bolton. "This is obviously not the kind of thing that goes on at this facility and we wouldn't have given permission for this to have taken place if we were asked. It's very easy to see my phone number on the sign down there and it would've been no trouble at all to contact me, but no one did."
While there is a sign, it does not indicate that the property is private.
We spoke to more than a dozen members of the churches that use the facility and all took issue with the video being filmed on location without permission. Most everyone from this area knows the facility isn't public property but also knows it's sometimes used for weddings. Others have fished and swam there, and unfortunately, evidence of drug and alcohol use has been discovered.
Sheriff Shane Doyle said that monitoring the property's use is tricky because it's private property.
"If we passed by there and saw something that looked out of place we'd obviously go check it out, and we've actually made arrests there on multiple occasions. However, since it's privately owned, the owners are the ones that actually are supposed to monitor it and call us if there is unauthorized activity. It's the same reason we don't drive by someone's home, see a car that normally isn't there and ask them to leave. We only do that if the property owner calls with a complaint."
In a response video from the band's YouTube channel, they discussed negative feedback they received through social media like "This is sickening, this is our place of baptism...", "What a disgrace...", "You need to be locked up," and "Wow, they're going to hell faster than I thought..."
The band took issue with the perceived judgemental comments because they say they're doing nothing but trying to present something positive.
"Kids don't really listen to old-timey gospel that we grew up on," said Round. "But we're still trying to paint that same message to those people."
One can scroll through all their social media platforms where the video or song is discussed and see overwhelming support for the band. It has received a very positive reaction from their fanbase. Several of the comments come from those who say they are Christian and they appreciate the song's message.
Twang said since the board knows the place is used for weddings and other things, he doesn't see why anyone would be upset with their video being filmed there.
"If you just had signs that explained, hey--this is private property and all this. I mean, there's nothing there like that. Nothing," he said.
Round said as far as he knew, the property has had multiple uses all of his life.
"Everybody uses this, it's a staple of the community, people swim here, there's weddings here. Like I said, my whole life I've went down there and I've never had a problem."
Bolton said he didn't think there had ever been any need for signage because for the most part, everyone used the facility for the intended purpose.
"I have a big field on my property with cattle in it but I don't have a sign there that says THIS FIELD IS PRIVATE PROPERTY AND IT'S ONLY USED FOR RAISING CATTLE, because people have enough sense to know what the purpose is," he said.
He also noted that weddings sometimes took place at the creek, but only approved once permission is asked and that the wedding party understands that if someone wants to use the facility for a baptism while the wedding is taking place, the wedding will have to be stopped, decorations removed, and the baptism would take immediate priority.
Even though weddings are sometimes allowed, trash or decorations are often left for a trustee or other volunteer to clean up.
"Weddings are religious ceremonies, too," said Bolton. "We all know the property is intended for baptisms, but since weddings are religious ceremonies, we've allowed them. The video I saw wasn't a religious ceremony."
The band has said they don't want hard feelings and they're willing to make amends with the board of trustees.
"I'm sorry they feel the way they do," said Twang. "I don't really understand their stand on it, to be honest with you. We didn't do anything ill-hearted. We didn't try to hurt anybody, we didn't try to take advantage of anyone. I just want them to understand that whatever we need to do, whatever it is that they're apparently worried about, I just need to know what kind of resolution we need."
The band said their bottom line is for the video to be positive, and that they'd even be willing to use their reach to let people know how the property is to be used.
"Anything we can do," said Round. "I don't want a negative light shined on us like we jumped some kind of fence or like we went down there without people's permission and stuff like that."
"Whatever God's will is, that's what I feel," added Twang. "That's what we try to do. I try to walk the walk and talk the talk. Whatever we need to do to make it right, it's gonna get made right."
Bro. Jerry Patton, a local businessman and minister for more than 40 years, is a member of the board which represents Pleasant Union United Baptist Church. He strongly disapproved of the video.
"I don't appreciate how the property was used and we're not happy that it was used without permission," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, they need to take the video down. Just delete it. I don't see what's positive about it."
After speaking with Twang and Round on Tuesday, April 10th, we shared their offer with the trustee board. We were contacted by Mr. Bolton on Friday evening after he discussed the band's offer with the board.
Bolton said the board requested for the video to be removed from publication and destroyed.
"We don't really think they'll do that since they've already completed the video, but they asked, and that's our reply," Bolton said.
We contacted the band's publicist, Mr. James Wright from Kerosene Media on Friday night with the board's request. Through Wright, the band released a statement on Saturday morning.
"After growing up there and having been to baptisms and had family baptized there as well, I would have never thought the church would turn against one of their own - lashing out with such hate and personal judgement over us going back to that place to capture such a beautiful gift from God. We had a wonderful church service and fellowship there the day of the video shoot. I guess that’s the times we are living in...when the church casts judgement upon its own flock - something I’ve been taught only God has the right to do. Cast judgement. Thanks for your statement. May God Bless your journey!!!"
Bolton said the main point the board wants to drive home to everyone is that the facility is private property and anything that takes place on the premises should be done only with permission, as it is meant to host baptisms. A discussion will likely take place on whether or not the board will post signs or use other means to make sure the public is aware of the intended use of the property.
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