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In a small unnamed Southern state, Roscoe Boone (Jeffrey Allen) gives a sermon to a local crowd of parishioners over his moonshine slogan "I shall drink of spirit of the Lord" where he welcomes a young teenage couple Zeke (Lee Danser) and Mary Ellen (Pamela Polsgrove) on their recent marriage which he performed. But Boone also tells the parishioners that he believes in free love and that the virginal Mary Ellen is the one to satisfy the carnal urges of the men. He orders Mary Ellen to strip to her underwear in front of the church goers and has nearly every man to have their way with her.

Roscoe Boone returns to his house near the old church where he meets with his gang of moonshiners whom include his right-hand man Grady (Ray Sager), as well as his secretary/mistress Elise (Gloria King), and his half-witted redneck henchmen Turnip (John Garner), Sam (Eric Bradly), and Bubba (Larry Drake) where he operates a moonshine distillery right out of his own house and has his people run it to various parts of the state and sells the jugs of the whisky, called White Lighting, at the cheap price of $3 per jug. However, as popular as he is with the rural tenants, Boone is unpopular with the residents of a nearby town for he regularly visits a local liquor store to preach in his own way about the liquor sold there, which he sees as a competition to his rural brand.

During one sermon where Boone has a band perform, two federal agents, Clark (Tim Holt) and his rookie partner Marek, appear where they demand that Boone produce a license to manufacture the distribute the whisky. But Boone's gang quickly disarm the two agents and force the young Marek to drink some of the White Lighting whisky while Boone takes photos of them, and then has them thrown out of his church with the promise to send the photos to the press to humiliate Clark and his partner if they every show up at his church again.

One evening, as Mary Ellen is walking back to her house, an unseen person attacks her by throwing rocks at her, in which she is further attacked and bludgeoned to death. The following morning, Turnip takes a delivery of moonshine whisky for delivery, only to run into the police. After a long car chase, Turnip loses control and the car swerves off the road and into a ditch where it explodes, killing him instantly.

Boone holds a funeral for both Mary Ellen and Turnip where they are buried in the large back yard of his house and decides that he needs a replacement for Turnip to help with delivering his White Lighting booze. At the next congregation, Boone enlists and publicly announces Carter Thomas (Terrence McCarthy) to help out with his moonshine runs. Carter is a recent college dropout who wants the money that Boone gives him so he can return to college and to get married to his fiance Lynn (Ronna Riddle). Boone, however, wants Carter to be his replacement as minister to his congregation should something happen to him. The ceremony is interrupted when Bubba and Sam catch two young women watching the ceremony. The women claim to be tourists on their way to New York whose car just broke down. Not wanting to let the women go in fear they will notify the authorities to his moonshine business, Boone forces the women to stay for the night at his church while he has his gang take turns watching him. But the following morning, both women are found outside his church, dead, nailed to two wooden crosses in a crude cruxfiction shrine. Boone has Carter, Grady and his men bury the bodies and hide the girls car.

Carter tells Lynn that he's determined to get out this small town in order to return to college in Chicago where his family lives. Lynn fears that Boone will not let him go that easily and wants to run away with him. Carter, torn between his loyalty to his employer and his desire to be with Lynn to start a new life, is troubled, but hopes to resolve this matter peacefully and without turning Boone over to the authorities.

Meanwhile, Agent Clark launches another plan to shut down Boone's moonshine distillery. He has the local liquor store manufacture and sell their own White Lighting whisky, costing less than the booze that Boone sells on his local black markets hoping that people will stop buying Boone's liquor which will drive him out of business. But not to be outdone, Boone hires his own lawyer and claims that two of his henchmen, Sam and Bubba, fell sick from drinking the commercialized White Lighting whisky and issues further threats to Agent Clark to stop trying to bring him down.

Still refusing to back down, Clark has Bubba and Sam tailed by the local sheriff and catches both of them in a full healthy mood and arrests both of them for fraud which will give him the grounds to finally arrest Boone. When Agent Clark and the sheriff arrive at Boone's house with the warrant for his arrest, a standoff begins when Grady has a shotgun pointed at the police. But Carter, not wanting anything to happen to either Boone or the authorities, manages to defuse the situation by acting as the ambassador in which he offers Clark a deal: if Clark releases Bubba and Sam from custody, Boone will give him the photos and film negatives taken that night of the agent with the whisky, and then makes Boone to give his promise to close down the White Lighting still.

The standoff is quietly and peacefully resolved as Clark releases Bubba and Sam, and Boone hands over the film negatives to Clark. And with that, Clark and police leave the scene. Boone tells Carter that he doesn't know whether to thank him or curse at him for resolving this conflict, but that since it is done, he will allow Carter to leave and begin a new life for himself with Lynn. When Boone surprises everyone that he will indeed keep his word and close down the still for good, Grady protests and points his shotgun at Carter blaming him for influencing Boone. Grady, at his point, finally reveals that he is the killer of Mary Ellen and those two young women, having taken Boone's preaching of the Bible a little too far. Boone intervenes and tries to wrestle the shotgun away from Grady, when it accidentally goes off, literally blowing Grady's head apart. Grief-stricken, Boone stands over Grady's dead body sorrowfully reciting the 23rd Psalm as Carter, Lynne, Elise, Bubba, and Sam look on.


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