News Release

The Parley P. Pratt Freedom Run Celebrates US First Amendment Freedoms

The 27th annual family event in Columbia, Missouri, gives opportunity to honor historic ideals

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On Saturday, July 3, 2021, around 600 community members of the Columbia, Missouri, area gathered to celebrate U.S. First Amendment freedoms in this mid-Missouri city.

The 27th annual run took place 182 years after Parley P. Pratt, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, escaped from jail in Columbia, Missouri, and ran for his own freedom. In 1838, Governor Lilburn Boggs called for members of the Church to leave the state or be “exterminated.” Church leaders, including the Prophet Joseph Smith, were imprisoned on false charges, but most were released by the following spring, with the exception of prominent leader Parley P. Pratt.

After realizing petitions for justice would be denied, Pratt planned his escape from prison. On July 4, 1839, he and two of his companions stormed the jail door while the guards were serving dinner. Pratt’s bravery and escape have come to symbolize the need for religious freedom protections and other liberties enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution.

Newell Kitchen, senior director for the event, described the history of the run, saying, “As the city was celebrating the 4th of July, they escaped, and of course [the guards] chased them and it was a race — more of a chase than a race, but it was a race. So that was the first run of the Parley P. Pratt Freedom Run, and now we continue that legacy here with the event that we’re holding today.”

The event included an opening ceremony, a message of freedom, and a 4-mile and 1-mile run/walk. The message of freedom was given by Jeremiah Morgan, the Missouri Deputy Attorney General and an Area Seventy (regional leader) for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Morgan, who participated in the run after his opening address, added, “These fundamental freedoms are essential to our country, to each of us individually, that protect our right to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience, our right to speak in the public square, our right to assemble peaceably.”

Roger Andreasen, who attended the 7 a.m. opening ceremony, said, “It’s heartening for me to see this many people, this early in the morning, to celebrate their first amendment freedoms.” He added, “We’re all gathered saying we want our own religious freedom and want everyone else to have their own religious freedom as well so that they can believe what they believe.”

The 4-mile course passed 28 symbols of freedom in the downtown Columbia area, including the site of Parley P. Pratt’s run for freedom, Thomas Jefferson’s grave marker, the Missouri Press Association and 17 houses of faith. The start/finish line was located next to the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia, Missouri, just a couple hundred feet from the spot where Pratt started his run for freedom.

Matt Shawgo participated in the event for the first time. “Just the way it brings the community together has been amazing to see,” he said. “This [event] helps remind us of those who have sacrificed for us to have these freedoms.”

The annual event, held in conjunction with the U.S. Independence Day observance, has become a tradition that brings together members of the community honoring First Amendment rights while promoting activity, healthy living and friendship.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.