Preachers visit campus, cause a stir

John Dougherty / Sun Star

The UAF police department received several calls on Thursday Sept. 10 and Monday Sept. 13 concerning a group of street preachers from the Lower 48 who took up post in Constitution Park. While some students didn’t seem to mind the preachers, others took offense.

The two (unnamed) preachers stood in font of Constitution Park and yelled Biblical verses at students as they walked by on Sept. 14. - John Dougherty / Sun Star

Two preachers stand in font of Constitution Park and read verses as students walk by on Sept. 14. – John Dougherty / Sun Star

The preachers, Jesse Boyd, 39, of North Carolina, Shawn, 53, of Idaho, and Ken, 54, of California, travel around the country and to places abroad such as Nepal and Europe preaching at campuses and other public arenas.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and he is the only way to Heaven,” Boyd said concerning the message they came to spread, “Because he was crucified, he was buried, and he rose again.”

“Everyone says that God is love, God is love. I would like change. I would like to see people love God,” Shawn said.

The preachers are a group of believers with a common goal to get their message out. They came to Alaska preach at a local Baptist church in Barrow. During their time Alaska they also have preached at the University of Alaska Anchorage as well as some Anchorage bus stations and public parks.

Not all the university-goers wanted to hear the preaching.

“It is ridiculous; they don’t want to have a conversation, they want to attack,” said Troy Poulson, a grad student and teacher’s assistant. Free speech should be allowed but not yelling.”  This feeling was shared by many of those passing by.

During the preachers’ time on campus many stopped to discuss and challenge what the preachers said. They asked questions about homosexual marriage and brought up the Old Testament laws. Poulsen showed them a paper about how to argue and use rhetoric.

Many students accused the preachers of being hateful.

“I definitely support everyone’s freedom of speech,” Parker Merrifield, a chemistry student said.  “How they went about it is what I took issue with,”

“They were abrasive and insulting to a few folks from what I saw,” said William Middleton, a senior majoring in fisheries, who works with the United Campus Ministries. “To a degree I agree with what they were saying, but I think they were missing the point of what they were talking about.”

“They need to be judging the message not the method,” Ken, one of the preachers who did not reveal his last name, said.

Boyd said their churches sent them to preach.  “I’ve been ordained to the gospel ministry. We go out under the authority of our churches, so we aren’t acting on our own; they hold us accountable,” he said. None of the men would reveal the name of the church that sent them.

The police received on average between five and 10 calls each day the preachers were on campus, according to Deputy Police Chief Steve Goetz.

“They committed no criminal actions. Nothing illegal was reported to us through our callers,” Goetz said.

“The university is a marketplace of ideas, even offensive ones, and outdoor common areas at universities have a long tradition as a place of public forum, so UAF must allow speech, even offensive speech, in its outdoor areas,” said an email from the UAF general council responding to an inquiry from Goetz.

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