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Travelling preachers cause ruckus among passing students
Joshua Knopp / Contributing Writer
Multiple street preachers warned UNT students at the student union Wednesday afternoon that judgment was coming. The preachers’ signs specified “whoremongers,” “gangster rappers” and “Muslims,” among others, as those needing warning.
Several students gathered in counter-protest, arguing against the preachers’ perspectives and beliefs.
“What he’s trying to do is tough love, but it’s really not working,” undeclared senior Adam Scozzari said. “It’s one thing to sit on your beliefs and let that help you personally. He’s just kind of regurgitating the Bible and his own interpretation of it.”
One preacher, Jesse Morrell, has been visiting UNT since 2005. According to his website, he has preached on 97 campuses in 27 states and abroad. A former drug addict and thief, he came to Christianity 12 years ago, and said he has been street preaching for 10 years.
“My message is, ‘Repent of your sin and turn to Jesus Christ,’” Morrell said.
He was previously able to go into the campus and preach, but UNT changed its policy last April so that speakers can only get permits to go on campus by invitation, Morell said. Those without permits are confined to public sidewalks.
“Now it’s better for us, because we don’t have to apply for anything,” he said. “We don’t have a time limit.”
Dean of students Maureen McGuinness said the policy was changed because it was difficult for all demonstrators to reserve space, including students and faculty. The new policy makes reserving space easier, but requires people who aren’t affiliated with the school to get a sponsor.
“Students have free speech all over campus at any given time, as long as it isn’t interfering with individual rights or academic policies,” McGuinness said.
If students want to reserve a space or amp up their volume with speakers, they would need to contact the Dean of Students Office, McGuinness said.
Students who disagreed with the preacher showed it in different ways. Public affairs and community service freshman Hunter Short held a paper on which he’d written “FREE WILL” with an arrow pointing to Morrell, protesting the preacher’s ability to protest.
Students also responded by saying things such as “racist,” “sexist,” and “anti-gay preacher-man.”
Chris LePelley, another preacher who joined Morrell in protest, said that the preachers were only anti-gay.
“We’re not sexist in the sense that we’re against women,” he said. “We do believe that women ought to submit themselves to either their husband, father or pastor.”
He compared this view to Islam, which, he said, doesn’t give women any rights at all.
LePelley said his and his fellow preachers’ message is important because most Christian churches have “loosened their view on sin.”
“We believe most of the Christian church has turned to a feel-good message of what people want to hear,” LePelley said. “So we’re here to preach the wrath of God.”
Pre-biology freshman Rilyn Anderson, was critical of the students’ behavior.
“The students are acting immature,” she said. “They’re supposed to be getting degrees, instead they’re making fun of a preacher who’s just trying to care about them.”