Street preachers spark student retaliation

Faith Gates, Managing Editor/News Editor

Students rallied in the Santa Rosa Junior College quad on Jan. 15 after a group of self-proclaimed Christians started to preach their beliefs aggressively towards students.

The group called Cry to God arrived around noon and took up position at the fountain in the quad. There were four members present, three male and one female. All wore jackets and t-shirts that said “God Hates Sin,” “You Need Jesus,” “Fear God” and other religious statements. They each took a turn standing on the fountain “preaching the gospel.”

The street preachers spread a message of repentance, telling students to turn from their ways or they will go to hell. The main speaker of the group, who went by J.K., refused to talk to the Oak Leaf. When he began speaking, it did not take long for students to respond.

“I came out of class and they were yelling,” said SRJC student Rose Kitchel. Kitchel was the first student to stand against the evangelists. “I’m a Christian too, so I waited till he talked about judgment before I stepped in,” Kitchel said. “It felt like for me it was a moral obligation.”

Kitchel got many students up on the fountain with her to try and make more noise than the speaker and to join hands around the fountain. “This is not ok. We can’t allow this hate speech,” Kitchel said.

“We don’t hate anybody; we’re saying it out of love,” said Sister Evangelista, the only female speaker there from Cry to God. “We don’t do this for money, we do this out of love; love of God and love of man.”

The group carried a sign warning sinners like “sex addicts,” “pot smoking little devils,” “all non-homemakers” and “party animals” that God will judge them.

“He was yelling and got in people’s faces and we didn’t get in his face until he got in ours,” said SRJC student Felicia Spencer. “A lot of people were crying.”

J.K. yelled, “pervert,” “liar,” or “you’re going to hell” to those who spoke against him.

Spencer said J.K. preached against gays and lesbians. Mori Waltz, an SRJC student who identifies herself as transgender, said she’s “hoping for a more pluralistic and diverse future.”

A Christian SRJC student, Oliver Garcia, said what the evangelists talked about are the same Christian values of sin and repentance, but not teaching the way Christians should.

“I’m fine with freedom of speech and freedom of religion but not how they’re going about it,” said SRJC student Andrew Bryden.

“The freedom of speech argument presupposes that freedom of speech exists on an equal plane,” Waltz said.

Robert Ethington, dean of student affairs, said the group is protected by free speech, but they have to sign in and cannot go into classrooms. Patie Wegman, dean of student conduct, said the group followed all the rules and that it was a “healthy expression of free speech.”

“I think these people are here so someone will touch them and they can make money off of us,” said SRJC student Halie Matlock. Others said they make their money from lawsuits.

“We’ve never sued anyone,” Evangelista said. According to her, J.K. and Kevin Farrer, two members of the group, are roofing contractors.

The organization is based in the East Bay. Farrer founded Cry to God 33 years ago and, for the past 28 years, has been going to colleges to spread their beliefs. This is their first time at SRJC.

“They always say if they just ignore us and keep walking then we will go away, but they don’t. They can’t ignore us.” Farrer said. “Junior colleges react a little more immaturely.”

The conversation got very heated and people from the crowd threw water bottles and spit at the speakers.

“By the grace of God we haven’t gotten hurt,” Evangelista said.

When asked how the retaliation affects him, Farrer, smiling, said it doesn’t faze him at all.

SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong came to see the commotion, but refused to comment.

Associated Students President Joshua Pinaula was there, seen quietly standing next to the speakers and asking them to stop. Later he held a sign in front of them saying “Example of Ineffective Communication.”