A group of self-described Christians held a protest outside Ezra Lehman Memorial Library on Shippensburg University’s campus Thursday afternoon, telling students to confess their sins.
Around noon, three men arrived on campus and began “preaching” to students walking past the library. The men held signs that read “Evolution is a lie,” “Sin Awareness Day,” “Truth” and “YouAreSinners.com.”
The men said they travel across the country “delivering the gospel” at festivals, public forums and college campuses.
One of the men, Mike Stockwell of New York, held a Bible and a sign as he shouted his message at passing students.
Don Karns quietly handed out note cards with Bible verses on them before taking his turn to speak to the growing crowd.
Shawn Holes, of Luke 10:2 Ministries, began speaking shortly after 1:30 p.m., drawing the largest crowd of the afternoon. He spent his time interacting with individuals in the crowd, preaching and singing.
Students held signs and interacted with the protestors, asking questions and chanting.
As the crowd of onlookers continued to grow, SU Police Chief Michael Lee and SUPD officers were on hand to ensure the safety of everyone gathered on the quad. As more students were attracted by the protestors, barricades were set up to separate the protestors and the students.
As the protestors continued speaking, members of the campus community took to different mediums of expression. Junior Shirley Schauer stood on top of a bench outside the library with a handmade sign that read, “Proud Sinner.” Students signed her poster as they passed by.
Members of the Act V production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” sang and danced to songs from the show, which takes the Memorial Auditorium stage this weekend.
Many students and members of the campus community attempted to speak with the protestors, including Coalition for Campus Outreach Minister Destani Langford, who stood with tears rolling down her face.
Junior Hunter Hartung is a member of some of the Christian-based organizations on campus. He spent a few minutes speaking with the protestors before gathering with a few other people, laying hands on each other and praying.
“After they leave, we are the Christian community that’s left with what they are preaching,” Hartung said. “What they’re preaching is not the full gospel. What they’re doing doesn’t align with what we’re doing.”
Darius Barbour, a senior, said the protestors’ actions complicate the work Christians do on campus.
“A day of them doing this leaves reverberations for us for the rest of the semester,” Barbour said.
Sophomore Caitlin Demski said the protesters were only on campus to “get a rise out of students.”
“I don’t think it’s right,” she said, while acknowledging the protestors’ right to free speech. “I believe a true Christian is somebody who loves all people, regardless of religion, gender, sexuality, and when he’s here promoting hate and that’s not what life and love is about.”
SU Chief External Relations Officer Kim Garris said the men have a right to free speech because the university is an open campus. “We have to protect their rights as we protect others,” she said.
The men remained on campus throughout the afternoon.