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South Patio becomes pulpit for condemnation

By JESSICA SMITH & KATIE VAUGHN
On September 13, 2012

Controversial sermons on South Patio this week stirred students' emotions and invoked backlash against the preachers.
Street Evangelist John McGlone of Central Kentucky, and fellow "open-air" evangelists drew crowds from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, sharing what they said were the "hard parts" of the Bible.
"As Christians, we believe that, as Jesus taught, most people are on their way to hell fire," McGlone said.
Tech students gathered to listen to McGlone and other preachers who visited the campus with him. Many took offense to the speakers' proclamations about sin and hell.
"You drunkards, you liars," one of the evangelists said to the crowd.
McGlone, who does "open air preaching" around the country, said his motive is to spread a message of love. But some of his methods, including singling out students, caused the listeners to question his intentions.     
McGlone defended his approach by saying if he saw a student acting in a way that he felt was evidently sinful, he would bring it to attention.
Essa Abbas, a freshman Muslim student, was among those who thought McGlone's method of preaching was extreme.
"He is trying to force his opinion and telling other people their opinions are wrong," Abbas said. "He's spreading hate."
Angered students shouted back at the evangelists. Some made signs while others clapped and yelled in an effort to drown out preaching.
Senior Brantley Turner contested McGlone's ideology during a sermon.
"I came in, and I asked him a question, and I said it loudly and clearly so he could hear me," Turner said. "I asked him, 'Can you judge?' and he said, 'Are you a homosexual?'"
Turner said when he asked McGlone why his sexuality was questioned, McGlone said it was because Turner had "feminine characteristics."
"I felt like he was being disrespectful and offensive, and by him asking me that question, he was basically calling me out," Turner said.
Proclamations such as, "You're preaching nothing but hate!" and threats of violence against McGlone led to discomfort for some students.
Senior Alex Hutto believes both McGlone and Tech students acted offensively.
"It was a hostile environment for sure," Hutto said. "I mean, he egged it on. It wasn't like just all of a sudden students said they wanted to fight him. He would talk down to people and tell them he didn't want to hear what they had to say."
Hutto said McGlone began making negative comments about Tennessee Tech. It shocked Hutto that University Police and Ed Boucher, dean of students, let McGlone's remarks go.
"He said the school was stupid and that it was pointless for us to be here, and I was really throttled that the dean didn't turn around and tell him to stop talking like that," Hutto said.
McGlone said the reason for his comments about Tennessee Tech was that students spend too much time studying "wordly" things instead of the Bible.
Mark Ochsenbein, director of student activities, said McGlone had a legal right to share his views on Tech's campus and that he stayed within the parameters set for those who register to speak at the university.
Ochsenbein said if students didn't want to listen to the preaching, they could have walked away.
University Police officer Mike Lambert said, "He has gone through the correct legal channels to get the permit to be here, so we have to obey it."
McGlone won a case against Tech in 2010 before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after he was asked to leave for not giving two week's notice before his arrival or disclosing what he was going to speak about. McGlone said that he has the right to the First Amendment and was exercising his right to a "non-disruptive" public speech.  Although the incident between Tech and McGlone happened April 6, 2009, McGlone did not file a lawsuit until 11 months after, stating that Tech's policy was "burdening."
Tech is one of 12 colleges McGlone's organization, PinPoint Evangelism, will be speaking to this month.


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