Ministers incite student frenzy
Chaos erupted in Borchuck Plaza Thursday when ministers from PinPoint Evangelism started preaching and debating passer-by students.
PinPoint ministers Kerrigan Skelly and John McGlone quickly attracted the attention of East Tennessee State University students in the process of, what their reservation permit refers to as, "Free Speech Gospel Preaching."
Many enraged students shouted insults containing foul language at the ministers as a result of their commentary.
The students' reactions did not prevent the ministers from returning fire with an indiscriminant barrage of insults and judgmental statements.
Among Christians and non-Christians, the crowd's reaction to the event was generally the same.
One student brought out a white board and marker to write various remarks, which often resulted in the crowd cheering whenever something new was written.
The PinPoint preachers' reservation permit stated that the group reserved the plaza on the basis of "Free Speech Gospel Preaching." The group reserved Borchuck Plaza from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This fact later came became an issue when ETSU Public Safety questioned the time at which the group's demonstration would conclude.
ETSU Public Safety escorted the PinPoint ministers out of Borchuck Plaza at 3:30 p.m., which was the time at which the group stated that it had set to conclude its gospel preaching.
"I, myself, am a Christian and I believe that this guy preaching hellfire and damnation here on this campus just gives Christians a bad name in general," said Jesse Ray, a junior. "Christianity is based on mercy and forgiveness from God and not condemnation."
About midway through the pastors' time in Borchuck Plaza, Gary Ellis, a sophomore studying pre-business, emerged from the crowd and began to preach against the agenda of the two PinPoint Evangelism preachers.
Ellis read almost exclusively from the Bible and with each pause, the crowd erupted into cheers.
Ellis, who regularly attends The Well, said that he just wanted people to hear the truth.
"These people [the PinPoint preachers] were preaching on lies, preaching on hate, preaching on sin; they weren't preaching the true character of God," Ellis said. "How is someone that is hurt and needs healing, redemption and inner peace going to go to God when they think that he is this wrathful character that is going to turn them away no matter what they are? God is not like that."
ETSU Public Safety stationed multiple officers in Borchuck Plaza to keep the situation from spiraling out of control.
Lt. John Orr, ETSU Public Safety, said that the biggest concern during the event was student safety and making sure the altercations stayed strictly verbal.
Officers occasionally spoke to students or the pastors in an effort to ensure that they did not cross the line and cause a physical altercation.
"You start seeing people when their emotions are up, and that's when we usually put more of a presence there," Orr said. "Usually, when we have [these events], we at least have one officer just as a monitor. As you start getting bigger crowds with shouting and noise complaints, then we step it up a little bit."
Orr said that there could be changes made into how these types of events are handled in the future, especially regarding student safety.
ETSU Public Safety is considering the creation of a buffer zone between speakers and the audience.
Public Safety is also considering the utilization of blockades to further separate speakers from students during happenings of this nature.
"I think that would help the whole situation and everyone would still be allowed to say their comments," Orr said.
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