Evangelist preachers Jesse Morrell and John McGlone stirred up a crowd of Tech students and faculty earlier this week when they used South Patio as their stage for open-air preaching.
Morrell and McGlone returned to Tech Monday and Tuesday for their second consecutive year.
“Last year was chaotic. This year is not nearly as bad,” Jordan Price, senior, said. “The one thing I have a problem with is nothing he says seems to be rooted in love; it seems more like judgment. I think this does give a bad light to Christians when he comes and preaches hate, not love.”
In 2009, McGlone came to Tech for the first time.
“On a cold winter day a few years ago, I came to preach on North Patio,” said McGlone. “It was the only place Tech would allow me to be. It was about 30 degrees outside and the wind was strong so I asked faculty if I could move to South patio and they told me no. I went anyways and I wasn’t preaching like he is now,” McGlone said as he pointed to Morrell.
“I was simply handing out gospel tracks when a police officer approached me telling me I had to leave but threatened to arrest me if I didn’t,” McGlone said.
McGlone filed a lawsuit against Tech in April of 2009.
He won his suit against the University. According to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, the University was ordered in October of last year to pay McGlone $1.00 for damages as well as $92,766 for fees and litigation.
“My lawyers aren’t cheap,” McGlone said.
In the same month the lawsuit closed, Tech revised policies regarding access to and use of campus property and facilities. The requirements to speak on campus are listed throughout the policies.
The policy still states the speakers must apply and receive approval from the University in order to speak on campus. In accordance with state and national law, the University is not allowed to discriminate based on a groups purpose or message. In light of this rule, students, faculty and Tech police stood on South Patio once again and listened to McGlone.
“[The University] likes to have us here to keep the peace because he definitely knows how to flip people’s switches,” Michael Lambert, Tech police officer, said in reference to Morrell. “Basically what I figure they are doing is… they are here defending their First Amendment rights.”
Ben Vanwinkle, TTU junior, has started a petition on campus that states, “We, the students and faculty of Tennessee Tech, petition to disallow religious extremists and anyone whose intentions are not in the best interest of TTU students and faculty from speaking on our campus.”
“I’ve heard both of these guys speak before and I felt like I had to do something about it,” Vanwinkle said. He stood on South Patio Tuesday and stopped students and faculty, asking them to sign the petition. “These people should be dealt with in a civilized manor. I have found out that anyone is allowed to speak on our campus but I feel that once they have been heard insulting TTU students they shouldn’t be allowed back.”
Other students rebelled as they continued to listen to Morrell speak. Some played their musical instruments while another held up a sign reading “Twerk for Jesus”.
“We have kids here that don’t know better,” Megan Winney, sophomore, said. “Today a guy from Korea asked me if this was Christianity and if this is how it works. That’s not okay.”
Abdul Al-Almulla, a TTU freshman from Kuwait, said he heard about McGlone and Morrell on Facebook and Twitter and went to listen to the preachers.
Al-Almulla said McGlone approached him and asked if he was Muslim. He said when he confirmed his Muslim faith, McGlone said, “Your God is of the devil.”
“He doesn’t represent Christianity at all. Everyone will be judged on their actions by their God,” Al-Almulla said.
While some students acted enraged with what Morrell and McGlone had to say, Price actually spoke with McGlone personally. Price said McGlone seems genuine when he sits down and has a personal conversation.
“We sat and talked and everything John says, he has scripture to back it up,” Price said.
“Choosing to go over there and sit by him helped me understand where they were coming from more than I did before,” she said. “I decided to go over where he was sitting instead of sitting here listening to him yell at people and people yell at him. It is unproductive, you’re not getting anywhere.”
McGlone and Morrell are traveling evangelists who have spoken at over 100 campuses and have also been abroad. Tech is not the only university that has seen a law suit.
“Yes, I can see people punching them over this and I can see it being a scam, but I could see it being them simply preaching,” Price said. “I think they believe what they do to a point of craziness.”