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Preachers speak at Ferg Plaza

Deanne Winslett

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When John McGlone first walked onto the Ferguson Center Plaza on Wednesday morning with his “The King is Coming” hat, his “TRUST JESUS, HE HATES SIN, HEBREWS 1:9” sign and his fellow preacher, fewer than 10 people stayed around to listen. By lunch, they had garnered a larger audience.

The evangelist group from Kentucky does not identify itself with any denomination or serve as a representative for any already-established group.

“We don’t claim that,” McGlone, evangelist with PinPoint Evangelism, said. “We come here to represent Jesus Christ and the word of God and to proclaim it to the lost in the hopes that they might repent of their sin and become born again in the Holy Spirit. We travel all over the country doing this.”

The group set up on the plaza around 10:30 a.m. and began quoting scriptures from a black leatherbound New King James Version Bible.

McGlone said the group did not have a grounds use permit for their setup. He said he believed the grounds use permit is in direct violation of the United States Constitution, and he felt they did not need one despite the University’s standing policy on grounds use permits.

“Anybody can walk through this campus. There are no gates. It’s not private. You can’t treat your grounds use permits like it’s a private university, it’s inviting legal dispute,” he said.

“The Bible says go before the whole world, and that includes this campus – this campus is owned by my God. I don’t care who you say it belongs to, it’s owned by my God – my God said, ‘Go before the whole world and preach,’ and I’m going to come here and preach,” McGlone said. “I want to be reasonable. I don’t want to stir up a riot. I want the young people to be thoughtful. I want them to be calm so that we might have a civil discussion.”

(See also “SODEL discusses reform to UA grounds use policy“)

UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen released the following emailed statement concerning the situation: “The organization contacted the University in advance and provided information about their planned visit. We notified them of University policies for using our grounds and facilities. UAPD officers were available in the area in case any issues arose. We are not aware of any complaints about the visit.”

McGlone said he did not intend to disrupt students’ learning or create a combative environment.

“I’m not here to disturb the educational process, but to enhance it,” he said.

Sam Gerard, a junior majoring in history, rushed to the Ferguson Plaza after seeing a post about the group on Facebook. He said he is concerned about the University’s lack of action regarding the group not having a grounds use permit.

“Honestly, it doesn’t seem like a religious institution’s place to be yelling this at students,” Gerard said. “He’s talking about free speech and when grounds use is such an issue on the campus, and yet honestly, he’s just openly doing this as someone who doesn’t even attend the institution.

“We should have some control over outsiders in this regard,” he said. “We shouldn’t just open up the campus to anybody who’s going to stand on a soap box and give a spiel.”

(See also “Anti-abortion activist visits campus in response to display removal“)

Kerrigan Skelly, the president and founder of PinPoint Evangelism, arrived around 2 p.m. and took over the preaching for the group. Less than 30 minutes after he arrived, a crowd of more than 30 students had gathered around him. Some watched casually, others criticized Skelly’s preaching from afar, and others started shouting back at him and creating posters of their own with messages such as “GOD LOVES EVERYONE.”

“My goal was to preach the gospel, the whole counsel of God, to as many people as possible and allow them with their own free will to respond the way they want to respond,” Skelly said.

“This reaction today was a little worse than we usually get, probably because the crowd was so big and they were probably amping each other up,” Skelly said.

The number of students gathered around Skelly grew as he continued to preach. Briana Bryant, a UA student majoring in journalism, said when she arrived at the plaza the crowd was “a giant angry mob.”

“We all felt persecuted and like he was coming at us offensively rather than trying to help us,” Bryant said. “Then he walked away from the center of the crowd and he came and he sat down, and it was a lot more civilized and we were a lot more willing to communicate with him rather than just defend ourselves.”

Bryant said she felt like Skelly needed to re-evaluate his methods.

“I think his tactics are very poor. If he wants people to follow him and believe what he’s saying, then he needs to come at it as if he’s on their side instead of casting down on them,” Bryant said.

McGlone said they intend to move on to The University of Alabama at Birmingham on Thursday.

(See also “March to Rose draws hundreds“)

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Preachers speak at Ferg Plaza