By Tia Kordell
INDIANA –- A group of traveling evangelist preachers on Tuesday afternoon drew a rowdy crowd to the Oak Grove, where campus police responded to raucous debates over such issues as homosexuality. Officers intervened but made no arrests, a university spokeswoman said.
“People were civil, and they were loud,” spokeswoman Michelle S. Fryling said Wednesday. “There were no arrests or injuries.”
The group travels a college-campus circuit to preach in the open about Christianity, said group member Michael Marcavage in a 2:30 p.m. Tuesday interview outside Leonard Hall.
“The core message we bring is to love God and to love our neighbor,” Marcavage said. “That’s why we’re out here today.”
The evangelists preached between 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., said Mark W. Ament, a sophomore physics major who spent much of the afternoon in the Oak Grove recruiting students for his honors fraternity.
A crowd formed around 1:40 p.m. when a woman who described herself as an atheist stood on a ledge in front of Leonard and argued with one of the evangelists, Ament said. Members of the gay and lesbian community joined the argument.
At about 2 p.m., three IUP campus police vehicles pulled onto the sidewalk in front of Leonard, Ament said.
At 2:47 p.m., campus police confirmed that officers had responded to complaints about a disturbance.
The evangelicals preached that homosexuality was a sin. Loud argument ensued.
“God’s word says that homosexual behavior is sinful,” Marcavage said in the interview. “We’re living in a culture that is embracing these types of things and its destruction of the family.”
English major Erik L. Moore, a self-described homosexual, said he was offended.
“I believe in Jesus,” Moore said inside Leonard at 2:30 p.m. “But I’m not going to go around and tell people they are going to hell for what they want to do. That’s not Christ-like.”
Shelbi L. Brison, a sophomore, pre-physical-therapy major, stood in the cold outside Leonard, unswayed.
“This is just shocking to see how people have different views and are arguing about it but really nothing is going to get solved,” Brison said. “They are going to still believe what they want at the end of the day.”
The Oak Grove was the religious group’s second stop at IUP on Tuesday. Allison L. Shumar, IUP’s assistant director for student life, said she was on her lunch hour around 12:30 p.m. when she saw the group on Pratt Drive near the entrance to the Hadley Union Building and advised them about the university’s policies.
“I approached them earlier in the day and explained our procedure,” Shumar said in a Wednesday afternoon interview in her Pratt Hall office. “They refused to follow it. They refused to collaborate. Then they moved over to the Oak Grove.”
Shumar said the university does process permits for preacher Timothy Metcalf, of the Lord Jesus Christ Assembly on Oakland Avenue. Metcalf told a group of students in October 2012 that he started open-air preaching in the Oak Grove in 1992.
“We don’t approve or deny based on the content,” Shumar said. “That’s where the First Amendment comes in. We can’t — and the university police can’t — tell them to leave or do anything like that unless someone says, my education was being disrupted.”
Spokeswoman Fryling counseled audiences in such situations to stay calm and avoid escalation.
“If you don’t like what he’s saying, move along,” Fryling said.
Video taken by IUP communications media student Charlotte N. Cornish using an iPhone.
Tia Kordell is a senior IUP journalism and environmental biology major from Indiana, Pa.