Warning: This video contains language that some may find offensive.
By Sarah Duis
The quiet on campus was shattered Monday morning, Oct. 14, when a group of self-described preachers arrived on campus with a megaphone, signs and a message for students.
The group was comprised of several men, small children and a woman. They started preaching near Wiekamp Hall and, after being asked to leave by campus police, moved to the area in front of the University Grill.
According to one man who held up a sign alongside his young daughter, who would only identify himself as Steve, they stopped using a megaphone after they were asked to by campus police.
The men took turns standing on top of the crate in front of the University Grill, loudly shouting at students about damnation, sin, God’s judgement, and Hell.
By 2 p.m., a crowd of about 20 students gathered near the Grill to protest the group’s presence on campus. Many had made their own signs, most of them countering the preachers’ anti-gay rhetoric.
At one point, one of the preachers shouted “God does not love queers!”
Student William Tracey came out to counter-protest and described the preachers as “terrible.”
“Why are these people here?” Tracey said. “We don’t want them here, clearly. They’re here spewing hate speech on our campus, a campus that’s been pretty accepting of gay people. Obviously their message isn’t wanted here.”
Liam Morley was another student in the counter-protest group. He said as soon as he saw what was happening, he started calling and texting his friends and tweeting about the protest.
“I know that when I was growing up seeing things like this made me feel horrible about myself,” Morley said. “When you’re really young and you’re in a Midwest town and this is the primary voice that you always hear, how else are you gonna feel but really badly? And what they’re basically saying is that people who are gay or people who are not straight, among a lot of other things, but obviously that’s their focus, should die or are an abomination or should go to Hell, and that’s what I’m concerned about because I had that experience.”
According to Steve, who quietly held his sign alongside his daughter for most of the day, he and the other preachers are not affiliated with any particular church. He said he was from Minnesota, another man was from Iowa, and some of the other men were from Ohio. They decided to meet up and visit college campuses to spread their message.
“We’re just messengers,” Steve said. “We believe what the bible says, we believe the bible to be true, God has changed our life, we’ve been born again, and we come out and tell people about sin, righteousness and judgement. Our desire isn’t to condemn people, our desire’s not to judge people, our desire is to tell people just what the bible says,” Steve said.
Steve said he’s been participating in “street preaching” for more than ten years.
“I don’t even question the bible anymore,” Steve said. “I don’t understand everything in it but we come out and tell people ‘Listen, there’s a day that you’re gonna die, and you’re gonna stand before God, and we’re telling you, we believe it to be true.’”
According to Jeremy Eiler, a student advocate and member of the Student Government Association (SGA), a complaint was made to the SGA office about the noise – a class was canceled because the noise caused by the event was too disruptive.
A police officer was called out in response to the complaint and arrived around 3 p.m., keeping a watchful eye over the protesting. Students started to leave around 3:30 p.m., and the preachers left at around 4 p.m.
After the event, other students sent in their opinions.
Rodney Chlebek: “I felt that it was appropriate to show solidarity with the Campus Ally Network…In essence, it is often upsetting to listen to someone tell you “you’re doing it wrong” and that you ought to change or face eternal torment. I have never found this approach effective for winning the hearts and minds of others. In all, even though I don’t agree with the message (which was being shouted at times), I appreciate freedom of speech. I would want the same opportunity to voice my views publicly.”
Nicole Noland: “…While I was there a middle-aged man stood on a stool for at least three hours, spewing hateful speech nonstop at the small group of protestors…I didn’t even say anything to him and was told I’m going to hell! Most (although not all) of the student held a silent and calm protest and I appreciate their ability to act mature while standing up for something I feel is very important. I am absolutely outraged that this group brought their small children with them and had them hand out flyers (flyers they probably couldn’t even READ, they were so young) to students walking through the protest…I also think it says something that the IUSB Campus Ministry wasn’t there. When other religiously affiliated groups don’t want to be associated with you, you’re doing something very wrong.”
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.