- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

PUTNEY, Ky. (AP) In this mountain community composed largely of conservative Christians, Michael Braithwaite was a novelty.
Mr. Braithwaite owned a sex shop that sold sex toys, leather goods and other porn paraphernalia, but he now sells Bibles after he underwent a religious conversion.
"Morally, I couldn't sell it any longer," he said.
Neighbors have embraced the change, helping Mr. Braithwaite restock his 5-year-old store with Christian merchandise and buying groceries for him, his wife and daughter until his new business begins to turn a profit.
He dropped the old name, Love World, and now calls his store Mike's Place. He covered the formerly bright red outer walls with a fresh coat of white paint.
Mr. Braithwaite, with tears pooling in his eyes, said God persuaded him to close the shop, burn $10,000 worth of sex toys and open the bookstore.
A pile of ashes in his parking lot is all that remains of his former inventory.
"I stopped and got 10 gallons of diesel fuel, and we packed load after load of stuff out of there," said Frank Howard, pastor of the Closplint Church of God. "We were hauling it out by the wheelbarrow."
Some of his former customers have been shocked to walk into the building to find a shelf of Bibles where unmentionables used to be displayed.
"When the Lord gets ahold of you, you make some changes," said Mr. Braithwaite, who now greets new customers by giving them Christian tracts, and quoting Scripture.
Mr. Braithwaite still faces misdemeanor obscenity charges, which were brought at the behest of Concerned Citizens of Putney. Now that the shop has closed, the group's attorney said he hopes the case can be resolved, perhaps with a small fine.
Mr. Braithwaite underwent his conversion last month during a prayer meeting and was baptized a few days later.
"This shows that the Lord loves and wants to save everybody," said Shaun Aslinger, a Harlan evangelist, "even the man who runs the adult novelty store."


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