Published March 14. 2004 8:30AM
BY TODD LEWAN
AP NATIONAL WRITER
INGLIS - It truly was an ambitious undertaking: But Carolyn Risher, mayor of this coastal hamlet of shrimp fishermen and God-fearing folk, believed the hour had come to cleanse her town of the giver of evil - of Satan himself.
His grip on the community, she'd noticed, had become disturbingly apparent: a father had molested a child, teens were dressing in black and powdering their faces white, pot and crystal-meth use was rising.
So she sat at her kitchen table on Halloween night two years ago and drafted a proclamation. The words flowed from her pen almost, she recalled later, as if God was guiding her hand.
"Be it known from this day forward," she began, "that Satan, ruler of darkness, giver of evil, destroyer of what is good and just, is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town of Inglis . . ."
The mayor printed her proclamation on official stationery. She stamped it with a gold seal. She signed it and, along with Sally McCranie, the town clerk, made copies and stuffed them into four, hollowed-out wooden posts on which were painted "repent," "request," "resist."
Then, together with a local pastor, a town commissioner and the chief of police, the 62-year-old mayor went to each of Inglis' four entrances and, in the name of the town's 1,421 residents, fixed those messages of banishment into the ground.
"My main goal was to wake Inglis up," Risher told a visitor recently. "If the proclamation could get people to wake up and realize that they needed God, then it would be a success - then Inglis would be saved."
Would it, though? Would banning the Prince of Darkness from the town's three square miles deliver Inglis from drugs, thieves and drunk drivers? Would it ease the fears of a small, isolated community - frustrated by joblessness and uneasy about war overseas and terrorism at home - and attract an angel of light?
To an outsider cruising in fifth gear along the flat, asphalt ribbon that is U.S. 19, the towns along Florida's Gulf Coast do not look like Satan's stomping grounds. They look sedate as they always have, slow and swampy, places where the globes of the streetlights are almost hidden by live oaks and palms, where the bumpers of the four-by-fours are a tad pitted by salty air, where herons jut from the marshes and shallow, brown creeks that cut the Florida scrub.
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