North Texas Daily

Street preachers create a scene on campus

Street preachers create a scene on campus

September 09
00:07 2014

By Dalton LaFerney / Senior Staff Writer

He stood in the sun with his Astros hat. In his bright-green shirt, over a black microphone, he stated the four particular sinners who would go to hell—liars, thieves, adulterers and homosexuals.

“Jesus Christ commands all men and women everywhere to repent,” Robert Reece of Heritage Grace Community Church of Frisco told the crowd. “And that is the message I am delivering here. If you do not repent of your sin, you will end up in hell.”

Students gathered as Reece preached that, “all other gods are a figment of your imagination.” Just as he spoke, three women each dawning a hijab, the headdress commonly worn by Muslim women, stopped and listened.

“He is the answer,” Reece preached. “And no one can see God except through Christ. It cannot be done through Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam. You cannot see God through those ways.”

Passers by have long-interacted with groups like Heritage Grace, and have similarly become outraged with the messages and delivery. With religious groups on campus, too, the evangelists are not favored.

“Even Jesus said it Himself that people hated Him because He proclaimed their deeds were evil,” Reece said. “It is not some fluffy message we are teaching.”

A separate microphone is available for students to interject and discuss with the preachers, but the rules are made clear: Do not cuss, and no Christians allowed. Reece said feedback is encouraged, but they are not here to debate with Christians.

After a dispute with Reece, computer science freshman Richard Miles stood up and yelled to the crowd, “My name is Richard Miles. I am a Christian and I love each and every one of you here, no matter who you are.”

Commonly, onlookers express that the church’s method of delivery should be reconsidered.

“I don’t disagree with what they are doing. I just don’t think it’s the most effective thing on this campus,” Stephanie Gates, director of Baptist Student Ministries said. “I’ve been here eight years, and UNT students are very open to talking about faith and what they believe in.”

Gates said the evangelists (not necessarily those from Heritage Grace) “hindered some of what we do” when groups preached near the BSM building.

“Everyone just assumed they were a part of us,” she said. “There were times when it would get really heated and aggressive. And so we would put a sign out saying we had nothing to do with it.”

BSM takes a different approach to reach students. Gates teaches her students to build relationships with the student body and invite others to Bible studies to engage in conversations on faith and individual beliefs.

“There’s nothing I can say or do that’s going to make somebody love or hate Jesus. I’m not that powerful, I’m not that strong,” Gates said. “Through those conversations and being able to see students respond encourages my faith.”

For senior pre-medicine/biology student Tanya Nanongkhai, president of Atheists, Agnostics, and Others, nothing is gained from debate. Nanongkhai has discouraged her officers from confronting the street preachers.

Atheists, Agnostics, and Others is a group on campus that provides “a community for students who fit under the umbrella of ‘other’ or ‘non-religious.’”

“We gain understanding through action and education,” Nanongkhai said. “If my members desperately want to engage in a religious protest, I encourage them to show it through community service.”

UNT requirements for on-campus protests 

Free speech is a universal right in the United States and that extends to UNT.

“Students, faculty, staff and student organizations have free speech anywhere on campus except classrooms,” said Maureen McGuinness, dean of students. “If you wanted to go anywhere on campus and preach, you have the ability to do that.”

Reservations, authorized by the Dean of Students Office, however, are required by the university when amplified sound is in use. McGuinness said groups are only denied those spots on campus when it is already reserved by another group.

“When an off-campus group wants to come on campus,” she said. “They have to be sponsored by a faculty member, student or student group.”

The off-campus group Heritage Grace must fill out a form for authorization before it may use microphones in certain areas specified by the university.

City streets and the sidewalks adjacent to them are public property, so anybody may exercise free speech rights at any time in those areas. But the speaker will be subject to citation if the sidewalk or road becomes too congested, according to police.

Usually, members of Heritage Grace preach in the Free Speech Area outside Sycamore Hall near the Eagle Statue, but the group has yet to get the permit required to use the space.

The Dean of Students Office did not respond for comment, but according to its website, the university requires that “a request to reserve a designated area for expressive activities, or, to engage in amplified speech in a designated area, must be submitted…no fewer than eight business days before the proposed expressive activity.”

The Dean of Students Office will then review the request and deny or permit the group.

Pastor Ramos and the message 

For Ramos, the American Christian belief of an all-loving God is the wrong word to spread. Rather, the God he follows and shares is a God who will punish sinners.

Ramos became a Christian when he was 19 years old in Southern California.

“I realized very early on what I wanted to do,” he said. “And that was to learn the Bible and teach it to other people. That became my passion.”

Ramos was influenced by Ray Comfort, an evangelist and author of “Hell’s Best Kept Secret.”

“Any time you stand up in a post-modern world and say that you have the truth, it’s not going to be received by our culture,” Ramos said. “This is a universal truth in our nation. It doesn’t matter where you go.”

The evangelists separate themselves from other groups that spread other messages.

“We want to make it crystal clear that we do not support any and every Christian thing that goes on at UNT,” Ramos said. “There are a lot of false teachers that sadly are there.”

Ramos said an issue with Christians today is Biblical illiteracy.

“I ask many students from many ministries, ‘What is the gospel?’” he said. “You wouldn’t believe how many of those folks cannot tell me.”

Gates agrees. She said she welcomes a conversation in order to help students gain a better understanding of the message.

“I tell students on our staff all the time, ‘I’m not afraid of having a hard conversation, I’m afraid of not getting to have it,’” she said.

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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