Vocal preachers on campus spark student-led protest


Warning: This video contains language that some may find offensive.

Steve stood quietly with his sign for most of the day, alongside his young daughter.
Steve stood quietly with his sign for most of the day, alongside his young daughter.

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.”

One of many signs students made to hold up during the impromptu counter-protest.
One of many signs students made to hold up during the impromptu counter-protest.

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.

One of many signs students made for the impromptu protest.
Most of the handmade signs countered the preachers’ anti-gay messages.

“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.

Most of the preaching and counter-protesting took place in front of the University Grill.
Most of the preaching and protesting took place in front of the University Grill.

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.

8 comments on “Vocal preachers on campus spark student-led protest”

  1. God is love. That’s it. Steve is loud and annoying… who would want to love God back if Steve was the only face representing that love? Steve = 5 steps backwards.

  2. I think this article is very well written! I agree they have a right to be here and protest. But, if they are interfering with classes then they must have limitations. I believe students handled this very well and spoke out there opinion. I’m glad people are sharing there believes and opinions.

  3. My friends who started the counter-protest said that the core group didn’t leave until the preachers left.

  4. It’s 2013. It blows my mind that people like this still exist. We have access to most every piece of art, science, literature, and philosophy that the human race as a whole has ever produced, and people are still so worried about what some dumbass book says that they are willing to make fools of themselves in public for the sole purpose of being assholes to people they don’t like. I’m not completely sure whether I should feel sorry for them for being so intellectually void, or just hate them.

  5. This is interesting. People would say this is no way to evangelize. I think that’s mostly because to say someone’s wrong makes that person very mad in this relativistic society. Anyone who claims Christ and scripture can’t be too mad or disappointed in these in these guys. There is a lot of truth in what they say. Now I don’t know how the rest of the evening went but I agree with steve when he wants to tell these students that there is a day they will die and they will have to answer to God. Scripture states that we will be judged by every idle word we speak. How much more or equally will we be judged by our actions. The other bit that I am curious about is their “hateful speech” now I agree and am against anyone who says God hates queers. That is wrong on all sides and goes against God’s intrinsic qualities. I believe homosexuality is an action not a state of being. The choosing of becoming sexually active with someone of the same sex is an action. Those feelings and desires are distinct from the action. God loves them and fights for them. But just as Romans 1 states, God gives men up to those desires. He lets them go because they choose their desires over him. Anywho thank you for the soapbox. I’m off of it now. Stay classy. Don’t stop thinking.

    1. American society is getting less and less relativistic, actually. Instead, people are coalescing around principles like compassion and liberty.

      I think it’s interesting that your theology leads you to believe that God condemns 10-15% of the population of the planet never to know romantic love or intimacy because of whom they happen to be attracted to. That isn’t supported by anything Christ ever said, and in the original Greek Paul was referring to temple prostitutes, not committed, loving homosexual relationships. In fact, committed, loving homosexual relationships are never mentioned in the New Testament. It’s almost as if the Bible exists in a cultural context and has to be interpreted in that context.

    2. Thank you for your courage in speaking the truth! You have keyed into the very point that scripture makes ie. love the sinner NOT the sin. You have made your point simple and clear. Thank you for sharing this frank & candid wisdom.
      Today socially we are programmed by media & all sorts of written material, to “tolerate differences”. When, in fact, what we are being programmed is to “tolerate a behavior”. It is as if there can no longer be any sensible voice of reason out here. Those of us who make this differentiation are thrown into a vat with the severely disturbed & the shaved headed racists who society believes need to be taught “tolerance”. When in fact, what they need to be taught is that Jesus loves them and died for them, he did this for ALL of us.
      While we are still here, we are to “seek” a relationship with our heavenly father. The only way to do that, is to read his word…the Bible. That is the way He can communicate with us personally. He reveals himself to us, and grows our faith in him, via his word.
      We are all sinners. At some point everyone dies. At the point of death your soul will go to heaven or to hell. John 14:6 makes it simple and clear. Look it up to see what Jesus said about going to heaven.
      I wish those traveling preachers wouldn’t have singled out a specific sin. Unless it was just because it was ‘Abomination Wednesday’. Which would have been followed by ‘Coveting Thursday’ & ‘No Other God’s Friday’.

  6. I find it significant that “Steve” no longer questions what he does not understand. It is my understanding that it is the testimony of the actions of our lives which stand as our leadership as Christians. We, as Christians (or any other member of faith for that matter) are not to judge, but to lead others to righteousness. Our God, or gods, are our judge. It is between the Almighty and Steve, not between Steve and me.

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