Street preachers, student counter-protest continued on Friday

Street preachers, student counter-protest continued on Friday

Street preachers, student counter-protest continued on Friday
April 14
08:50 2019

Street preachers from a national preacher convention returned to campus on Friday between Willis Library and the Business Leadership Building for a second day in a row and were met once again with counter-protests.

The preachers, who described themselves as non-denominational, came with messages of repenting for sins and spoke on topics like abortion, same-sex couples and sex outside of marriage.

Despite their intentions, some students find the preachers’ statements, like the claim that abortion is wiping out African-American culture, to be offensive.

“Saying that abortion is wiping out the black community makes it seem like black people are the only people getting abortions and that’s not true,” psychology freshman Taylor McMillian said. “Why does what a woman does with her body matter so much to you when you’re a man? What she does to live her best life has nothing to do with you, and if you think abortion’s going to wipe out a whole population of people that’s not gonna happen. I think it gives a bad reputation to actual Christians and people who are religious.”

Students put up the eagle claw in protest against the street preachers demonstrating on campus Friday. Image by: Adriance Rhoades.

The preachers also claimed that those living with sin who do not repent cannot go to heaven. Interdisciplinary studies junior Caitlin Calma, who is part of a student ministry on campus called FOCUS, expressed her disagreement with the preachers’ claims and said that they were pushing people away from religion, rather than bringing them closer to it.

“Jesus loves you no matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done in your past because you are wiped clean no matter what,” Calma said. “People coming out here like this wouldn’t be a bad thing if they were preaching love, but instead, they’re preaching hate and condemnation.”

Emilio Ramos, who typically preaches on Highland Street every Wednesday afternoon, set up his microphone to discuss his disagreement with one of the organizers of the convention, Jesse Morrell, who he said was teaching a “false gospel.”

“According to Jesse Morrell, unless you live a perfectly sinless life, you cannot have any hope of Heaven,” Ramos said over the microphone. “It is a blatant denial of what the Bible actually teaches. Students understand this gentleman out here does not represent historic Christianity.”

Most of the counter-protesters stayed away from the preachers, holding signs or playing music. However, this was not the case with all students as Jim Gilles, a preacher from Evansville, Indiana, had his “Make America Great Again” hat taken by a student who was eventually detained for evading police.

Gilles said the area in which they are legally allowed to preach is partially to blame for altercations with students.  

“This is quite typical for a campus in 2019, although this is a little bit worse because we’re on the sidewalk,” Gilles said. “If we were able to be on campus in a free speech area, the students could sit down and have a good time and be a little more orderly.”

Some students, like theater and political science freshman Chaz Kennedy, disagreed with the reactions of students to the preachers.

Students stand with handmade signs among and in front of the street preachers demonstrating on campus Friday. Image by: Adriance Rhoades.

“I’m a Trump supporter and I kind of felt offended as well because that’s his political beliefs and there’s freedom of speech in our country,” Kennedy said. “I think the preachers have good intentions, but they’re going about it in an inappropriate way. I feel like the students are being childish and it’s not helping the situation. Both sides need to calm down and be more passive.”

Environmental science sophomore Lyle Beasley, who is looking to create an anti-hate speech organization on campus, said he thought most students’ actions of dancing, singing and holding signs in front of the preachers contributed positively to the protest.

I think this was a good step in seeing permanent, actual change on campus and in the minds of the student body on campus,” Beasley said. “Blocking them out is the kind of common ground between ignoring them and egging at them, cursing them out and yelling at them. The middle ground is where change happens and that should be the ultimate goal.”

Despite many students contributing to the goal of blocking the preachers out, others could be seen yelling back at the preachers or engaging in heated debates with them, which Beasley said took away from their efforts.

“I think it was regressive and detracted from the positivity that was going on,” Beasley said. “They’re fighting fire with fire and everyone gets burned in the end. It doesn’t help and it’s just a way to elicit that emotional response that the preachers want.”

Featured Image: Jesse Morrell, part of the National Street Preacher Conference, speaks to students with a megaphone Friday. Image by: Adriance Rhoades. 

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Brooke Colombo

Brooke Colombo

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