NEWS CLIPPINGS

 

1 Cor. 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 




LSU REVEILLE - late 1980's

Free Speech Alley - Louisiana State University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above pictures, taken from The Daily Reveille, show Brother Britt Preaching at LSU's "Free Speech Alley" in the late 1980's.  Brother Britt began his open-air ministry at LSU and it continues today with Consuming Fire Fellowship's bi-weekly visits to campus to preach the gospel.

 

 

LSU REVEILLE - early 1990's

Preachers at Union:  Greatest campus threat!

By Tim Boone
Guest Columnist

What is the greatest threat to LSU students today?  Is it the threat of drowning in the Quad on a rainy day?  Is it the danger of going blind trying to read the chalkboard in Dodson Auditorium?  Is it the threat of dying of old age while waiting in line to buy football tickets?

No ladies an gentlemen, the greatest threat to LSU students are those friendly Union preachers.  You know who we're talking about, those men and women who stand on the benches in front of Free Speech Alley and damn you to Hell because you didn't stop to listen to them.

Freedom of Speech is one o f the great things about America.  The founders of the this country gave us the right to say what we want, where we want, and how we want.  Without the First Amendment, we might as well move to Iraq and paint portraits of Saddam Hussein on the sides of buildings.  However, having the freedom to say what you want doesn't give you the right to step on other people's toes.  When you shout passages out of the Book of Revelation so loudly that you can be heard in the Quad, or call couples holding hands "sinful fornicators," you are going too far.

If you feel that it is God's will for you to speak in front of the Union so you can save those that pass by, that's great.  Good luck.  But please, don't be so obnoxious to those who don't want to listen to you.  They aren't dragging you into their church, you shouldn't drag them into yours.  

Freedom of religion gives you the right to worship as you please without persecution.  It also gives you the right not to worship without persecution.  We need to remember this.

 

 

 

 

 

BATON ROUGE MORNING ADVOCATE - Front Page   

Morbid Curiosity - Photo and caption

Bill Feig

Advocate Staff photographer

 

Downtown merchant Bob Roberts takes a close look at one of two people who attracted a lot of attention as they strolled Third Street on Tuesday afternoon wearing Grim Reaper costumes.  Neither said anything, but one carried a sign with a Bible verse about death and judgment.

THE DAILY REVEILLE -  Early 1990's   

Alley-goers enjoy taped message

W. Scott Kiker

Reveille photographer

 

 

Britt Williams, of Consuming Fire Ministries, was unable to make his usual appearance at "Free Speech Alley" Wednesday afternoon.  Williams left a tape-recorded message in his absence, so alley-goers wouldn't miss his weekly message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LSU REVEILLE - Opinion Page   November 1991

Equal voice denied Alley preacher

Editor,

I have now been a student at LSU for 4 1/2 years and never in all those years have I seen something that has made me so angry than what occurred on Nov. 22, 1991, at approximately 11 a.m. in front of the student union.

My fiancé and I stopped to listen to a fellow student (actually she only assumed that Bro. Britt was a student as he appeared much younger ten years ago) standing on top of a bench in front of the Union in what is known as "Free Speech Alley."  Ironically enough, I learned later that day that the "Alley" is only "open" for "free speech" on Wednesday afternoons.  the gentleman was quite interesting and he had a message to share.  He was still speaking when we decided to go into the Union to grab a drink before our next class.

Once we got on the second floor, I happened to glance out the front window, and I noticed a small crowd gathering on the front lawn only about 10 feet away from the gentleman on the bench.  In the center of the crowd was a television camera.  I glanced back over to the gentleman, and by that time, an LSU campus police officer had the gentleman in handcuffs.

My fiancé and I were enraged over the fact that this man was doing no harm in sharing his message.  Moreover, the reason behind his being arrested is what prompted me to write this letter.

While I was on the telephone on the second floor of the Union discussing with a friend the legality of this man's arrest, an employee of the LSU Union, who worked at the information desk, overheard my conversation and was compelled to interrupt me by her boasting, "We were the ones who called campus police."  I immediately ended my conversation and sought more information from the employee.  From what she told me, the gentleman was "disturbing the peace" because "Free Speech Alley" was "closed."

Later, I found out the real reason.  I overheard someone say that Channel 2 (WBRZ) asked the people at the Information Desk to call the police because they were trying to film some clips for "America's Funniest People," and the gentleman was interfering with their filming.

Maybe it all wouldn't have been so terrible if I hadn't going back outside.  As I passed the ever-growing crowd, I distinctly heard the director tell the crowd to "yell" the words "ooh" and "aah" in unison.  The choral response resounded much louder than that of the gentleman.  Where were campus police when the crowd was "disturbing the peace?"  And what makes television have different constitutional rights than individuals?  What is free speech?  What is "disturbing the peace?"

I am constantly bombarded with some of the moral values I inherited from my parents.  The gentleman was speaking of God, our Father; the television station was "speaking" of money.  I have no grand conclusion to this letter; I have no flourish.  Only this I have to offer:  Maybe we should look at where our priorities lie, and if we need to change them, we should.

Cynthia S Cambre

Senior

 

 

 

LOUISIANA TECH UNIVERSITY TECH TALK - October 1992

Religious group Invades Tech

By Renee Simmons
Staff Writer

Last week students where able to hear the gospel spewing forth from atop benches in the Quadrangle.  Spontaneous sermons laced with fire and brimstone left passers-by sluggish from intrigue.

On Friday Scott Coleman, a sophomore nursing student at Tech who had been preaching during the week, was joined by approximately 15 others from Bethany Full-Gospel School in Monroe as they shared their beliefs with students who wandered by their make shift pulpit.

The group carried signs, with one reading "Repent and know that Jesus shed his blood for you."  Some of the sign showed human faces with flames surrounding them.

"There are people perishing and they need to know the truth," Jessy Cummings, a member of the group said.

Another member of the group, David Lubefski, said that "most of the people out here really need God in their life."

Some students and university staff questioned the effect of the groups efforts.  "I think they're scaring people off, not attracting them," Peter Watson, a sophomore journalism major said.

Lori Otwell, a Tech Bookstore employee said, "I believe in the Lord, but I think they're carrying it too far."

Gerald Reeves, director of the Tech Bookstore, said he admired the group and respected them for their efforts, but he felt they may have been turning students away from religion.  "This gentleman is speaking about a God of judgment," Reeves said.  "He's a God that will meet all needs."  Reeves was referring to a member of the group who was speaking at the time.  Reeves said he felt that the group might have made the students feel as if they were being scared into salvation.

Dr. Jean Hall, Vice President for student affairs, said that although the university is open to speakers and groups, they are usually not allowed to speak in the Quadrangle.  Hall said that the university had the right to ask speakers to leave if they were disrupting the academic mission.  Although the group was not asked to leave, they later left on their own accord.

 

 

BATON ROUGE MORNING ADVOCATE - Summer 1993

Downtown preaching spurs protests

By Victoria L. Coman

Advocate staff writer

 

 

Several downtown merchants say they aren't trying to stop religious freedom - they just don't want it screamed into their customers' ears.  Bob Roberts, owner of Riverside Shoe Repair, said he had had enough of five preachers who stand on Third Street and shout sermons to passersby.

After several customers complained, Roberts went out to the street Wednesday to confront the preachers with a sign saying "Please Leave You Are Bad For Business." Customers "come down here to do business with us.  They don't want to be harassed," Roberts said.  "He (one of the preachers) said he didn't care about the businesses down here.  He just wanted to save souls,"  Roberts said.

The preachers have been gathering on Third Street since the beginning of June, from about 11:30 a.m. until after 1 p.m., Roberts said.

Britt Williams, associate pastor of the non-denominational Redeeming Word of Life Church, said he was called by God to preach on Third Street six weeks ago.  "I came to preach for Jesus," he said between speeches.  "Come to Jesus Christ. He died for you. So confess!"  Williams, 32, said he has been preaching for six years and will continue to preach on the streets no matter how much he is told to stop.  "You've got these so-called dignified, conservative individuals who go to church, will go to an LSU football game, stand up and do dances over a leather ball and a chalk line on a field," he said.  "But they are offended that I'm on this street to talk to them about God," he said hoarsely as he wiped sweat from his arms and forehead.  He said the group preaches on several streets in Baton Rouge, often in front of bars.

Three men in their early 30's, including Williams, and two teenage boys shouted and passed out religious tracts to lunch-goers with titles ranging from "How To Be Saved" to "The Sinning Church Member."

Shane Miller, 18, sported a T-shirt proclaiming "Consuming Fire Youth Group - Where It's Uncool To Be A Heathen - Turn or Burn."  Miller said he has been street preaching for two months.  He said he was told he had the "calling to preach" by another member of Redeeming Word Church.

Pete Richoux, owner of Richoux's restaurant, said the preachers "aren't even using a regular tone with the people.  They are howling at people" and reducing customer visits to his business.

Donna Knapp, owner of Donna Jean's shoes, said the street sermons have slowed customer visits to her business too because people are avoiding the street.  "They are so boisterous;  I think they scare the people off," she said.  

Richoux said he had called the police about the preachers.  "The police have come out here, stood and watched.  They've (police) said as long as they're not stopping people from walking on the sidewalk or blocking traffic, there's nothing they could do," he said.

A city police officer sitting under a nearby tree said she stays on the street to answer questions.  "We get a complaint every time they come out here.  The merchants and the employees around here in the area say they can't do work because of the noise," she said.  "There's no law that says they can't come and say what they feel because it's freedom of speech."

Reactions from the people on the street have been mixed.  Charlotte Guidroz, director of public relations at Louisiana Home, said she can hear the preachers while in the building on a higher floor at work.  "I think it's very annoying.  It's worse when you're high up," she said.  

Glifford Dunbar, an accounting specialist at Louisiana Department of Social Services, said he goes to lunch downtown everyday and he isn't affected by the preachers.  "It doesn't bother me because it is freedom of speech," he said.

 

 

 

LOUISIANA TECH UNIVERSITY TECH TALK - April 1995

'Confrontational' ministry causes campus concern

By Mike Williams
Staff Writer

Four members of Consuming Fire Ministries in Liberty, MS, were arrested by University Police April 4 for simple trespass.  Charles Kennon, 25, of Waskom, TX;  Daren B. Williams, 34, of Centreville, MS; Craig Smith, 30, of McComb, MS; and Tony Roberts, 36, of Liberty, MS, were taken to the Lincoln Parish Detention Center after being arrested by University Police Chief Stephen Quinnelly and other Tech Police officers.  

"We told them to leave and they refused.  The fact that they had a religious message was not why they were arrested.  They were arrested because they harassed students," Quinnelly said.

When asked about their methods, CFM member Williams said, "We are very confrontational.  If you knew someone who was going to die and you could stop them, wouldn't you be confrontational?"

Andy Hearst, director of Tech's Wesley Foundation, said, "Those guys have nothing to do with any campus ministry.  They were not invited by any campus ministry.  They obviously push the bounds of free speech."

Many Catholic students were particularly upset about the group's methods of evangelism.  "He offends me with this.  How can he come up here and say that about my religion?"  Andrew Maestrini, a junior mechanical engineering major, said.

Williams said, "Catholics preach heresy.  If I love them I must tell them."

When asked for his response to the group's position on Catholicism, Father Jerry Thelen, director of the Catholic Student Center, said, "Any group that condemns another group is working against the ideal that we are all Christians."

CFM members began preaching April 3.  Quinnelly said by the following day, Tech police had received numerous complaints.  

Bill Prescott, director of Tech's Campus Crusade for Christ said, "Ministering is being able to talk with people about Jesus.  It should be done in a manner that is relevant and compassionate.  I don't know if these people meet the criteria."

Williams said this was not the first time his group has had trouble with the law.  He claimed that he has been arrested 12-20 times.  "They asked us to disobey God.  I just got back from Russia, and I had more liberty to preach there," Williams said.

The group's action and the police's reaction have caused some campus ministries to be concerned.  Hearst said, "One of my concerns is that they (CFM) will feel empowered by the arrest.  I wouldn't be surprised if they're back."

In the midst of Resurrection Week and just prior to Easter, many Christian organizations at Tech would like to clear up any misconceptions brought about by members of Consuming Fire Ministries.

"It does create some opportunity to say that's wrong, now let's talk about what's right," Hearst said.

The four members of Consuming Fire Ministries were released on $500 bond each and await a May 3 arraignment.

 

 

LOUISIANA TECH UNIVERSITY TECH TALK - April 1995

Radical religion harmful

By Liz Allen
Opinion Writer

Last week in the Quadrangle five men created quite an uproar.  Part of "Consuming Fire Ministries," these men - who were in no way affiliated with any Christian campus organization - screamed to the point of damaging their vocal chords.  In an abrasive and confrontational manner they barged into people's lives with the information that everyone on this campus, including myself, was destined for an eternity in hell.

This accusation was made without any knowledge as to what convictions I, or anyone else, might have concerning God and Jesus Christ.  At first I thought that the screaming was a group of harmless people sharing their beliefs in an extreme way.  But later I began to realize that these men were anything but harmless.

They insulted people as human beings and freely wielded a sword of bitterness at anything that moved.  Those men do not live here day in and day out.  They do not go to class with anyone on this campus, and they never tried to befriend anyone.  They had absolutely no idea what the Christians on this campus are tying to do, and how they are trying to be accurate reflections of Christ.  These men came to judge with the wrath of God and presented an image of an evil ruler who was waiting to squash His subjects like a bug.  They were angry, bitter, and militant.  They didn't know anyone, and they didn't want to know anyone.  It's a lot easier to judge people from far away, where all emotion is removed, and throw stones from an ivory tower.  Or should I say a glass house?

It seemed the main objective of the group really wasn't to change anyone's life for the better, but rather to hear themselves scream.  More importantly than this, however, was that they felt it was some sort of an honor to have everything they said completely and utterly rejected.  As if it was a medal or badge to pin on their shirts that would symbolize persecution suffered in the name of Christ.

If the example set by Christ is what we as Christians are to live, the men screaming in the Quadrangle represented anything but Christ-like behavior.  The Jesus I serve never stereotyped people and placed them in little boxes on a shelf that were marked Catholic, friends of the earth or sinners.  The last category is the most obviously and utterly absurd since everyone and their brother's sister's mother's dog is a sinner, including the radical evangelists who were on our campus.

Christ came to this earth to be a friend to the friendless, to give hope to the hopeless, to love those that no one else would love and to be a servant.  These are the attributes that Christians should possess, but many times do not.  These are characteristics that I want to reflect to others, not anger and bitterness; people see enough of that.

People need to see that there is hope and that somebody on this campus genuinely cares about whether they live or die.  I believe that the only way to have that hope is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that it is through this relationship, that people will live forever in heaven.

I think that Christians need to put away the stones, leave and forever lock the doors of their glass houses.  They should stop talking about what it means to be a follower of Christ and actually just be one.  If people tried to act in a manner that reflected a life lived in love with Jesus Christ there wouldn't be any need to worry or become offended by people like those from Consuming Fire Ministries.  We would just love them too.

It's not as hard to love people as it might initially seem.  Just look at Jesus.

 

 

 

LSU REVEILLE -2/15/01

Voicing beliefs: pastors preach religious ideals

By Tracy Simoneaux  
Contributing Writer



Lindsey DeBlieux/The Reveille

Preach On: Brother John Duncan vehemently asserts his beliefs Wednesday in Free Speech Alley. "We are here to expose the sin at LSU so that men might see their wickedness, turn from all their sins, and they might truly be saved," Duncan said.

Large crowds of students have gathered in Free Speech Alley for the past two weeks listening to both accusations and Bible passages.

While some of the outbursts have come from University students, most cries are the preachings of a group of visiting evangelists.

"We are going to all the world and preaching the gospel," said Britt Williams, pastor of Consuming Fire Fellowship. "We go anywhere where there are groups of people, including LSU."

Williams and his group are visiting from a Christian church in Woodville, Miss. With two traveling campus evangelists, Brother John Duncan and Brother Matt Bourgault, they have come to the University to preach a message of repentance.

"LSU denies existence of God and truth of scripture," Williams said. "I stand opposed to an institution that would reject God."

The evangelists want to promote Christianity and Jesus. They encourage individuals to make peace with God and to enter a personal relationship with Jesus through faith and repentance.

"We are here to expose the sin at LSU so that men might see their wickedness, turn from all their sins, and they might truly be saved," Duncan said.

 


Sean Gardner /The Reveille

Hit the Floor: Preacher Charlie Kennon Jr. uses a pile of leaves to represent a home that students build for themselves and their families. He then kicks the leaves away to represent destruction. "Are you good enough to go to Heaven just because you provided for your family?" said Kennon.

While some students crowd Free Speech Alley for the entertainment, many students disagree with the evangelists' methods of teaching repentance.

"I think it is wrong, and I don't see why they should come here to scream and tell everyone they are going to hell," said Rhett Guillot, a business freshman. "They don't listen and can't give straight answers because they have no answer."

Jennifer Bailey, a mass communication junior, said the way the evangelists use their children on campus is "sick."

"I would consider myself a follower of Christ, and it upsets me to see someone with a sign that condemns Mormons when we should be on the same religious team," said Michael Lester, a philosophy and religious studies sophomore, in response to the evangelists' billboard that condemned people of differing lifestyles and religions.

Williams responded to accusations saying that preaching is obedience to the Bible. The Greek word preach, he said, means public crier.

Evangelists use aggressive techniques of preaching to declare the way of God in the same manner Jesus and the apostles did, Williams said.

"I'm not concerned about if men think I am a successful preacher," Williams said. "Jesus said the world would hate us. They hated Jesus. It is all consistent with the testament."


Sean Gardner/The Reveille

Little Believers : Children of the preachers watch as their fathers tour LSU. From left to right are Timothy Keaton, 6; Micah Williams, 10; Zachary Bourgault, 7; Gabby Bourgault, 10; and Colton Bourgault, 3. "I get to pass out tracks which are the way to salvation," Zachary said after being asked if he liked helping at the University.

Williams said he has had every imaginable response to his teaching in his fourteen years as a preacher. He has been beaten, spit upon, urinated on, thrown out of a moving vehicle and mostly mocked.

Sonya Bourgault, mother of Gabby, Zachary and Colton Bourgault, said her children were on campus because they were enthusiastic about helping.

"I get to pass out tracks which are the way to salvation," Zachary said after being asked if he liked helping at the University.

The message of the evangelists has also attracted many responses from University students.

"LSU is a good place for them to preach their beliefs," said Brendan McAdams, a psychology junior. "Especially in Free Speech Alley, it is good to get different opinions out."

Asim Javid, a philosophy and religious studies senior, said he thinks the evangelists' message is good. However, he suggests a more effective way of preaching would be through love and understanding.

Most college students do not want to be preached to and would rather someone try to understand them or help them discover their own beliefs, said sophomore Brandon BoJangles.

 


Lindsey DeBlieux/The Reveille

Warning, Warning: Pastor Brother Britt Williams (left) of "Consuming Fire Fellowship" debates with Paul Catalanotto, a religious studies sophomore. Williams is on campus from Woodville, Miss. "preaching the Gospel."

"I don't see people being touched by their methods, it only angers or upsets people and even makes them more confused," said BoJangles. Williams and Duncan said they once lived hypocritical lives, similar to the lives of a typical college student. Duncan said he lived a life of alcohol, drugs and parties.

"Compared to Jesus, the apostles and prophets in the Bible, I was just a miserable wretch on my way to Hell," Duncan said.

The evangelists will take their beliefs to another campus after Friday. However, they plan to continue their visits to campus once a month.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LSU REVEILLE - Opinion Page  2/15/01

Harassment, expressing religion on campus has gone too far

Editor,

What is the purpose of LSU's Free Speech Alley? That area has been long set aside as a gathering place for students to exchange ideas on all matter of subjects. Regularly, in conversations I hear one person or another complaining about a "Crazy Preacher Man" in front of the Union condemning all LSU women as harlots, LSU men as drunkards and just generally offending everyone within earshot.

OK, so at school, these people have some sort of right within the Alley to harass passersby in the middle of the school day. However, on my way to a local bar to hear a band play the other night what did I find? Two more "Crazy Preacher Men" out there wearing signage and howling at the top of their lungs that everyone was damned in the eyes of God.

Now things have gone too far! Expressing one's opinions to others at school is one thing, but coming into Tigerland, into our neighborhood, and being belligerent and downright offensive is entirely another. LSU set aside a place for the "Crazy Preacher Men" to bark. Stay there.

Carolyn Carsten
Public Relations
Junior

 

 

LSU REVEILLE - Opinion Page  2/16/01

Visiting preachers' hate-mongering compared to Nazis'

Editor,

In the 1930s and `40s, the Nazis attempted to wipe out the entire Jewish religion in Germany. Lead by Hitler, the Germans spread their hate of a group of people. Let us fast forward to February 2001 at LSU. In front of our Union in the U.S.A., representatives of the "Consuming Fire Fellowship" are spreading their hate for groups of people. One member held a sign, which was shown in your paper, that warned all thieves, murderers, etc that God's judgment is coming." The disturbing part of the sign was that Mormons were included on the sign. Apparently the protesters don't care highly of Mormons. I am in a religion class on the Holocaust, and this display is no different that what took place then. It is one thing to condemn people for criminal acts, but it is just wrong to spread hate for a religious group or any group of people. In my religion class, we are learning the importance of making sure something like the Holocaust never occurs again, but our society has not come far enough with the display in front of the Union this past week. History allows us to not make the same mistakes again, so lets make sure something like the Holocaust doesn't happen again by stopping the spread of hate for groups of people. History is not just facts and dates; it should make us better people.

Ernest Ballard, III  
Public relations

Senior

 

 

 

LSU REVEILLE - 11/13/01

Religion, rowdiness meet in Free Speech Alley

By: Richard Buchholz, Columnist  


You want drama? You want emotion? You want rippling laughter competing with stern voices warning of hellfire and brimstone? Then you should have been in front of the Union last Friday at noon to see two very different worlds in head-on collision. The question at issue: who would win the battle for the hearts and minds of the youth of LSU?

In this corner, Pastor Britt Williams of the Consuming Fire Fellowship of Woodville, Miss. Pastor Britt is a frequent visitor to LSU, where his mission is to harangue the noontime crowds streaming in and out of the Union. From his belt holder he hoists a large flag inscribed with several choice bits of scriptural wisdom. Over his shoulders hangs his famous sandwich board with its stark WARNING TO ALL followed by his prime candidates for eternal damnation. It is a very inclusive list, ranging through all the usual suspects, from pornographers to lesbians to murderers to fornicators. It even includes several special crowd-pleasing surprises such as Catholics, Mormons, and “potty-mouths.” All, without exception, booked on the next train for hell.

And, in the other corner, the Merry Pranksters of Studio 8, the local humor and gross-out group. They were engaged in one of their community outreach projects at the same time Pastor Britt was looking for new converts. Was it a coincidence? I don’t know, but it certainly had something of the miraculous about it. One of the Studio 8 boys (the self-styled “Lord of Darkness”), draped in a black robe that obscured his face, used a small electric bullhorn to wickedly funny effect as he talked back to the preacher, sticking close to the man’s heels like a fox terrier yipping at a Saint Bernard.

Pastor Britt ignored the bullhorn boy, and it was testimony to the power of his voice that he could easily be heard above the laughter of the crowd and the squawking bullhorn.

Meanwhile, the Pranksters went around collecting bodily fluids, masticated food substances, and regurgitated breakfasts from the onlookers. You can e-mail me if you really want to know what they did with the offerings; for now, suffice it to say that it was extremely gross and very funny.

Meanwhile, Pastor Britt moved off to the side where he engaged a small group of skeptics in spiritual reflections and (accidentally) almost decapitated a passing cyclist with his flagstaff. He spoke of his past, when he lived in a little apartment on Aster Street and was addicted to five different drugs at the same time. He said before he found Jesus he too had been “guilty” of almost everything on his sandwich-board list. “Were you a lesbian, too?” asked one girl.

That was the one time Pastor Britt almost smiled. But he stayed right on task, telling his listeners what he thought they needed to hear, why evolution was dead in the water, and how they could come to know Jesus.

I didn’t agree with much of what he said, but I sure admired his guts. How many of us would paint our life philosophy on a couple pieces of plywood, hang it over our shoulders, and try to sell it to a bunch of college students on a Friday afternoon?

Hey, is this campus a great place or what? Talk about diversity! Where else can you find such a spectrum of personalities speaking in wildly differing tongues? It may be wholly babble to some, but it’s music to my ears.

See you at the Union.

 

LSU REVEILLE - 2/28/02

by Benjamin Leger

Staff Writer

 

 

Fellowship's Free Speech Alley demonstrations ignite 

student reactions

 


Men with signs condemning masturbators, homosexuals and Catholics, children handing out pamphlets with the image of the Grim Reaper on the cover and the sound of people screaming hateful comments heard throughout the Parade Ground — all in the name of religion.


Free Speech Alley was the setting for more heated debate this week as Consuming Fire Fellowship preached to students as they made their way to class and to the Union.


The debates brought out more of the yelling, name calling, laughter, in-depth and one-on-one discussions and even burning of religious handouts that students have come to expect.


“There’s usually a mixed reaction,” said pastor Britt Williams. “Generally, the response is that some are curious, some are offended and some are sincerely interested.”


“Offensive” is one of the main words students use to describe the actions of the Consuming Fire Fellowship, and Williams acknowledges this, saying it is because the nature of the message is confrontational.


Many students feel the remarks preachers made toward them are wrong and should not be allowed in Free Speech Alley.
Media Law professor Louis Day said Consuming Fire Fellowship members have the First Amendment right to speak their point, and the University has the right to make reasonable accommodations for it to take place.


“But it’s obviously uncivil if the kind of language they use would entice someone to fight,” Day said.


Biology freshman Emily Hartfield said watching the students and the pastors debate is amusing.

“I think they are getting people’s attention, but they are not conveying the message at all,” Hartfield said.

Aaron Moyer, a music education freshman, said he feels the preachers are not getting their message across because students just come by to mock them.  Moyer added if they would step down from the benches they preached from and spoke more civilly, their message would reach more people.  “In a way, I think they do a lot better when they follow up the conversations with one-on-one discussions afterward,” said philosophy senior Chiceaux Lynch.  Lynch explained further that people with honest disagreements and honest questions to ask would choose to speak one on one and not draw so much attention.  But the preachers’ finger-pointing and confrontational style is what upsets students the most.


“What he is saying is totally wrong,” said biology freshman Deanna Barnes. “He’s judging people, and he doesn’t even know who they are.”

 

Biological sciences freshman Bryn Manning said she feels most students are upset because they do not like being told they are evil or are sinning.  Other organizations handle things in a more civilized manner by handing out pamphlets and speaking from their designated tables, Manning aid.  “I haven’t seen one person, in the two years that I’ve been here, give them a positive reaction,” said kinesiology sophomore Mary Duffy.  Some students also found it wrong that the preachers brought their children out on the cold days this week to witness the debate, which sometimes involved rude language.  “They always bring their kids out here with signs they don’t understand,” Manning said.


The greater crime is for the preachers to come out to Free Speech Alley to harass students with the children present, Manning added.  However, Scott Lewis, one of the members of the Fellowship who also brought his children, said it is beneficial to the children for them to learn the ways of Jesus by sharing their faith. 

 

No matter what, the Fellowship continues to bring in crowds of listeners, whether to poke fun, to debate or to take advice.  “This is better entertainment than you can find on television,” said French and international studies sophomore Mandy Moolekamp.

Benjamin Leger

 

 

 

 

 

THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT - 8/21/02

by Don McCraine

Staff Writer

 

Protests of strip club lead to complaint against area minister

WOODVILLE - A local motel manager has filed a complaint against a preacher she says is disturbing the peace with his protests at a nearby topless dance club.

Meanwhile, the pastor says his actions are constitutionally protected.  

"Last Friday night was horrible - everybody in my motel complained," said Margaret Rutkowski, manager of the Magnolia Inn.  Rutkowski said protesters - members of the Consuming Fire Fellowship Church in Woodville - spend weekend nights shouting at patrons of Illusions Gentlemen's Club.

"He screamed until three or four o' clock in the morning," said Rutkowski, referring to Darren Britt Williams, pastor of the church.

"My guests were complaining that these people were keeping them awake," she said.

Rutkowski said she called the Sheriff's office Saturday night and filed a formal complaint Monday.   "I understand their right to protest, but not when it affects my business," said Rutkowski.

But Williams said he is preaching - not protesting.  "I don't refer to it as protesting - we are preaching the gospel in open air," said Williams.

Williams acknowledged that he shouts, sometimes into the early morning hours, but does not use any amplification devices.  "I'm no louder than the 18-wheelers that roar by on the highway," he said.

On Tuesday, Williams said he had not yet been charged in connection with Rutkowski's complaint, but he was not surprised.  "I've been arrested probably a dozen times over the years, but I've never been convicted," said Williams.

Williams said he was once charged with disturbing the peace for preaching in front of the riverboat casino in Natchez, but he said the charge was later dropped.  Williams said if he is arrested he will attain legal representation and fight the charge through the judicial system.  "The preaching of the gospel in open air seems to be rejected more in this community than the strip club," Williams said.

Illusions owner Ray Johnson said his manager filed a trespassing complaint against Williams in July, but he said the charge was somehow dropped.  "I don't know exactly why, but nothing was done then," Johnson said.

Williams said he was not trespassing, and the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.  "I knew where the public servitude was - I've been preaching for 15 years, and I'm very familiar with the law."

Rutkowski said club patrons have also gotten into shouting matches with the protesters, who gather along U.S. 61 in front of the club.  "I live here with my kids, and they have to hear this," said Rutkowski, adding that she fears someone will get hurt if the shouting continues.

Williams said his preaching has led to physical confrontations in the past, including an incident last Friday night in front of the topless bar.  "I was attacked and beaten by a guy. I've been beaten many times, but I don't report it. I just forgive them through the Lord," he said.

Johnson said he was not present, but has heard about the incident.  "From what I understand, he got into a confrontation with one of the customers," said Johnson.

Like Rutkowski, Johnson said the situation needs to be addressed before someone gets seriously injured.

Despite the dangers, Williams says he has gotten results over the years.  "Most of the people mock and threaten, but over time we help some people," said Williams.  Williams said he has had some good conversations with some of the bouncers and dancers from the club. He said he has only their spiritual well-being at heart.  "When they see that you really believe what you are preaching, then they begin to listen," Williams said.

At a meeting of the Wilkinson County Board of Supervisors on Monday, Sheriff Reginald Jackson said his office has received complaints from both Rutkowski and Johnson.  Jackson asked supervisors to mark the property lines at the club so his deputies can clearly identify any trespassers.  Board Attorney Ron Senko assured Jackson that the county engineer could provide such markers.


 

THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT - 10/30/2002

by Don McCraine

Staff Writer

 

'Open-Air Preacher' keeping track of his rights to free speech

WOODVILLE - At first glance, the 28th annual Woodville Craft Fair was like many other small town bazaars. People mingled on the courthouse square, chatting with the artists and admiring their work. Children played with hand-crafted toys on the sidewalk under the shade of huge live oaks. But suddenly a voice thundered across the lawn from the northwest corner of the square: "REPENT! Before it's too late, repent of your evil ways!"

A man, standing on the street corner and carrying a sign reading "Obey the Bible!" was shouting relentlessly to visitors at the craft fair. "What would you do if Christ came here today? You would nail him to a cross and crucify him," he screamed.

Darren Britt Williams - another preacher from the independent Pentecostal church Consuming Fire Fellowship - walked along the street, assisting the first pastor with the high-volume homily.

Williams knows his work is not always popular with crowds.

"When I walked across that street to the fair, I knew I had 'party-pooper' written on my forehead," said Williams, who refers to his work as "preaching the gospel in open air."

Indeed, some of the participants in the recent craft fair were put off by the preachers, who stood near where the Wilkinson County Homemaker Volunteers were selling chances to win a hand-sewn quilt.

The Volunteers sponsor the fair each year and raise money for charitable causes. But visitors and vendors could barely communicate on the sidewalks and streets near that corner.

One Volunteer said the screaming probably had a negative effect on the groups' sales at the fair.

"We donate our proceeds to the Children's Hospital in Jackson and to the 4-H clubs. But people don't like to shop when they are being screamed at," said the volunteer, who requested anonymity.

"I understand freedom of speech, but that's excessive," said James Gauthier, a retired firefighter from Dry Prong, La. Gauthier and his wife, Belinda, were selling crafts at a booth near the preacher.

Williams and his fellow ministers travel regularly to preach in public places, such as LSU's Free Speech Alley and last year's SEC football championship game in Atlanta.

Their loud and blunt messages often stir criticism and anger.

"If you look at the open-air sermons that Jesus preached, almost half of them ended in an uproar with people wanting to stone him," said Williams.

Williams admits that some people in the immediate proximity of the shouting may be aggravated by the volume, but he believes the real objections arise from the spiritual message.

"That's what stirs the hatred up - when sin is confronted. But there is nothing more important than the proclamation of the gospel," said Williams.

The preachers' constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion are weighed against state laws, which prohibit disturbing the peace in public places. Violations of these laws are prosecuted as misdemeanor crimes in county justice court.

"If a law enforcement agency brought charges for any solid violation of our disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct statutes, then we would prosecute it," said Wilkinson County prosecutor Holmes Sturgeon.

Williams' evangelical outings have drawn legal challenges before, including a recent complaint from the manager of local motel.

Williams spends weekend nights preaching from the roadside to patrons in the parking lot of Illusions Gentlemen's Club - a topless bar on U.S. 61 south of Woodville.

The bar is adjacent to the Magnolia Inn, where manager Margaret Rutkowski said Williams' nighttime sermons kept her guests awake. In August, Rutkowski filed a complaint against Williams for disturbing the peace, but the charge was later dismissed after Rutkowski chose not to pursue the case.

Williams said he has been arrested several times on similar charges in connection with his public preaching, but said he has never been convicted in any of those cases.

 

SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA UNIVERSITY'S LION ROAR - 11/21/02

by Lauren Faraone

Staff Writer

Students react to Christian speakers


Students passing through the Student Union last Thursday or Friday would have found themselves getting an earful from members of the Consuming Fire Campus Ministry who were calling passersby "heathens, whores" and even "faggots" as they struggled to save souls with the words of God.

"My goal is to awaken sinners on campus," said Matt Bourgault, a preacher from Florida who travels the country with his young son and who organized the religious event. "The Judgment is coming. We are not here to save. Only Jesus can save. Men can repent and they will be saved."

Bourgault sermonized by himself on Thursday, but was joined by two additional religious speakers on Friday who were affiliated with a church in Mississippi. Bourgault was at the center of the sermon that attempted to preach Christianity to 'sinners.' The preachers also carried signs that said "Gods judgment is coming, Catholics, hypocrites, potty mouths, fornicators, sodomites and Mormons."

The message was not very well received by many Southeastern students. Music and Dramatic Arts Instructor Robin Steptoe, along with the help of a few passionate students held a "silent" protest by demonstrating with signs rather than arguing with the religious speakers.

"They need to realize that their message of hate will not be tolerated on this campus," said Steptoe.

The students' protest was designed to encourage onlookers to "walk away" and "don't listen to him." Students joined in clapping hands and singing in an attempt to drown out the preachers words. One student even barked loudly at the preachers. The commotion of a boisterous preacher hollering insults as well as several students with signs, served to only increase the number of curious onlookers.

"It's just like looking at a car accident," said Lee Sutton, a SLU student.  

Other students also joined in protest attempting to drown out the preachers. Student David Brignac stood on a park bench along side of the preachers and began reading passages from "The Dali Lama - Ethics for the New Millennium."

"When you hit them up on an educated argument, they shut up," said Brignac.

Student Conor McGibbony, caused more excitement among the crowd when he showed up wrapped in a sheet and bearing a striking resemblance to Jesus. He attempted to draw the crowd away from listening to the preachers by offering tidbits of bread purchased from Subway as a sign of peace.

"My friends, this message of hate is fueled by you standing here," said McGibbony. "Come and follow me away from his lies."
Some students in the crowd were surprised that the university would allow this sort of demonstration.

"I don't think this has any place on campus, it's not the religious aspect, it just doesn't belong here," said SLU student and protester Josh Tillitson.  

University officials and members of SGA conceded that the laws concerning freedom of speech are what allow this sort of religious sermonizing to occur on campus with the consent of the university.

"We have to follow the law as much as we can while still protecting the students," said Assistant Dean of Student Development Jim McHodgkins.

"Regardless of the conflict this causes, it is a fine expression of freedom of speech, one of the founding principles of our country," said SGA President Jeremy Price. "It's democracy at work."

 

SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA UNIVERSITY'S LION ROAR - 11/21/02

by Antonio Muse

Opinions Editor

Prophets of Rage

As the History major approached the Student Union, he had to adjust his baseball cap to ward off the overwhelming sense of deja vu he felt. Last year he'd witnessed a similar spectacle to the one he now saw: an intense Christian zealot yelling out a philosophy that basically equated "All y'all going to Hell except me and mine, so come with me if you want to live."

He wasn't exactly sure if it was the same guy; if not, the newbie certainly went to the same spiteful, bombastic school. From last year, he remembered in particular a confrontation that the militant had with a fed-up observer decked out in black. The observer stated that the militant was wrong about everything, with the most glaring error being the methods used to reach the masses. Unsurprisingly, the militant wasn't open to constructive criticism. He launched a major shouting war that resulted with the observer turning to all witnesses and pleading something like, "Don't let this jerk scare you off from Christianity. You go decide for yourself."
The History major didn't remember seeing an organized protest against the "man of God" last year, but there certainly was one this time. Maybe that observer in black organized this, the History major thought. It was certainly plausible, though really, he could see anyone doing this. He saw a united group of Christians from a church he's heard of called Harvest. They were calmly (as could be expected, anyway) yet passionately trying to get the militant to see the flawed logic in his ideology. At one point, after encountering a virtual brick wall of close-mindedness to a different view, the apparent leader of the Harvest group proclaimed sincere-like, "I love you," and was quickly and bitterly answered with "You don't love me." The contempt of the militant was so evident that it was as if it had taken on a visible form and stood right beside him, glancing with approval.

The History major was taken aback. Last time he heard, Christians weren't supposed to be so quick to judge, unless he was just getting his philosophies confused. He turned and saw a young woman being advanced on by one of the militant's coworkers. The woman was in tears as she screamed, "Shut up!" He looked away from this scene and was momentarily shocked when he spotted Jesus Christ, or, more accurately, SLU's replica of Christ. The amazement at this sight soon took second place in his mind to this thought: Would Jesus be pleased at what he saw? Specifically, the History major wondered if, in fact, the zealots were correct. Maybe most of us were depraved and maybe the zealots were confirming their rightful place in a future heaven with their bold actions.

That's when the History major stole a look at the main enthusiast once more, catching the sight of a very ugly grimace, shaking with righteous anger. No, make that self-righteous anger.

With that small distinction made, the student knew for certain that he was just looking at a warped, modern-day version of Christ, the ultimate prophet. Though he wasn't near being called a Bible scholar, there were still certain facts he knew from his studies of Jesus. For one thing, he never recalled reading of an instance where Jesus stood in a public square, giving looks of extreme constipation to those he wanted to save. He never recalled having read of Jesus relentlessly condemning anyone he could think of while looking at them in disdain, already picturing them and their screams in Hell as they're forever consumed by the frightful licks of supernatural fire. The only image he knew of Jesus was a loving kind that was even present when, in his sole instance of powerful rage, he railroaded the corrupt for turning His father's temple into a den of thieves.

Though Jesus could've literally been considered "Holier Than Thou," one wouldn't have known it from the prophet's recruitment tactics. Christ sought out common fishermen to be his disciples, and he actively searched for those who fell short of the glory, often communing with them over dinner as well as being an appreciative guest in their homes.

Realizing all this, the History major turned away from the madness, satisfied at his knowledge. As he walked away, he wondered if these modern counterparts of Jesus would ever remember to utilize the ways of the original.
It could happen, he thought. Maybe.

And on that note, dear readers, take care, and God bless.

 

 

THE ENTERPRISE JOURNAL - 6/1/2003

Sin and Salvation: 

Strip club invites ire 

of street preachers

David Bruser
Staff Writer

WOODVILLE — Facing Illusions strip club, Charlie Kennon raises his arms, brings cupped hands to his mouth for amplification, and above the din of cars and 18-wheelers, yells:

“I warn you tonight, men: God’s eyes are upon you. Your wife may not know where you are tonight. Your little girl may not know where you are tonight. But rest assured, God knows exactly where you are tonight.”

Illusions sits about six miles north of the Mississippi state line on Highway 61, surrounded by little else. A back-lit sign that reads “Girl, girl, girls” beckons to passing motorists.

Kennon, who is associate pastor of Consuming Fire Fellowship Church, church leader Britt Williams and a few other members of the independent Pentecostal denomination have preached to patrons of the strip club every Friday night since it opened last July, often bellowing their Biblical message.

From 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. on a recent Friday night they position themselves on the nearest piece of public land in front of the building, a few hundred feet from the front door and just off the shoulder of Highway 61. Wearing placards adorned with scripture, they pace the patch of dirt.

“This wicked establishment was created so that men could love and please and gratify their own selves at the expense of Christ,” Kennon hollers. “You ought to be ashamed tonight, that you have chosen to live a life in defiance against the righteous and reasonable commandments of God. There is no excuse. This is defiant treason and rebellion against the almighty.”

Several patrons walking in and out of the club seem to skulk, eager to get out of earshot.

BAR OWNER ACCEPTS STREET PREACHER  

Illusions owner Ray Johnson of Baton Rouge said the roadside spectacle is a nuisance but claims Williams and company are good for business.

“We’re not happy with him and what he says. He calls everyone that comes in a pervert, or a female a whore. I mean, loudly,” Johnson said. “Actually, as a far as him being on the road, it’s done more good for us than bad. He actually draws attention to the place — people that didn’t know it was here, turn in.”

But Williams, 42, is motivated not by the number of people he convinces but by a calling to preach the Gospel.

“Literally, the word in the Greek, ‘preach,’ means a public crier,” he said.

“There’s directives in the Scriptures. Obviously, there’s the Great Commission which is to go out and preach the Gospel, and that’s more than just going to church. That’s actively going out and evangelizing.”

Johnson doesn’t underestimate Williams’ dedication to the cause and has accepted his consistent presence Friday nights on Highway 61.

“I would really prefer that he go away,” he said. “But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon — and I’m not going away. So I guess we’ll have to just live with each other.”

Williams, a native of Baton Rouge, said he was born again in 1987 and started “open-air” preaching shortly after. Speaking publicly and confidently did not come easily when he started on campus at Louisiana State University.

“Oh, it was terrifying. Before I was born again, in fact, I had a stutter. I took speech in college. ... Just to get up in front of a class full of people was terrifying. I really couldn’t sleep the night before a speech class.”

Williams moved to the Woodville area in 1994 to start the Consuming Fire Fellowship church, which he said now has about 30 members.

“If you turned around and looked down Highway 24, as far as you could see blindfolded people just aimlessly walking into a pit of fire, you would be compelled to warn them,” he said. “You might become very passionate, you might become very direct and those people might become angry, tell you to mind your own business.”

Though he hopes his message is heard, Williams doesn’t mind if his words or volume alienate passers-by.

“The first thing to remember is we’re not fueled or compelled by pragmatism,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is not that it work, but our ultimate goal is to obey God.

“But that’s not the only way we’re going to communicate truth. Because ultimately we want people to come and have a discussion. ... That’s what we’re ultimately after.”

THE PREACHERS AND THE “CRIMINAL”  

A strip club patron and admitted former inmate at Angola state penitentiary seems inebriated as he strikes up a conversation with the street preachers. Undeterred by a rubbery tongue, the man claims he is not beyond redemption.

“I confess I know what I’m doing is wrong, and I know what I’m doing is not pleasing to God. ... I’m weak. I’m not spiritually strong.”

Kennon, growing impatient but eager to help the man, counters: “This is not a weakness. ... You’re not a victim. You’re a criminal,” he says. “This is defiant, high-handed rebellion against God. Right now, there is grace sufficient to deliver you. The blood of Christ could cleanse you instantly.

Unhappy with Kennon’s characterization, the man persists.

“But what if I know what is right, but choose not to practice what is right?” he says. “Can’t no man give me strength. ... Y’all don’t know my heart. God knows my heart. He can read hearts.”

Williams cuts in, “I would be a fool to listen to you expound on the Scriptures, because you don’t have enough truth to set you free from a glorified whorehouse,” he said. “You know what you’re doing. Do you know that there is not one shred of righteousness in you? ... You’re a hypocrite. You’re a wicked man. You have read the Bible and you said you do believe in God, but yet you reject him. You hate Christ. You are more accountable. You’re going to a hotter hell because you do know the truth and yet you refuse to submit to him.”

Meanwhile, inside Illusions, music thumps, beer flows and strippers gyrate.

A sign above the doorway to the strippers’ stage reads: “The party’s in here.”

On the front stoop a bouncer watching the street preachers says: “The beauty of it is: You can come in here, sin all night, then come out and get saved.”

 

 

LSU REVEILLE - 4/14/2004

Religions want unity despite various beliefs
College is crucial time in spiritual life

By Amanda McElfresh, Staff Writer and Michael Beagle, Contributing Writer


story image 1
PAIGE O'NEILL / The Reveille holy moly: Religious demonstrators from the Consuming Fire Fellowship in Mississippi get their message across in Free Speech Alley.

(excerpt) Britt Williams, pastor of Consuming Fire Fellowship of Woodville, Miss., knows that his congregation's work may divide students.

Williams is known to many at the University as the "Free Speech Alley preacher." Students regularly stop to hear his sermons, sometimes arguing with his method and message. But Williams remains committed to his principles.

"True ministry promotes unity with God, and will likewise often divide man," Williams said. "We are not unified with anyone that doesn't believe the Bible."

Williams and his wife Bridget, referred to as "Sister Bridget," are no strangers to controversy, but he said people have every right to speak out against him.

Many who pass by the preachers in Free Speech Alley often are disturbed when they see small children alongside their parents, handing out pamphlets and speaking to students. But Bridget Williams said such worries are "foolish."

"Our children see that sinful [college students] hate God and the gospel," she said. "Some people accuse us of brainwashing our children, but they are exposed to more beliefs than other people."

In general, religion and spirituality have a strong presence in many University students' lives. Although some campus groups are working to develop more cooperation among organizations, religion remains a personal issue unique to the individual.

 

LSU REVEILLE - 9/28/2006

Fire and Brimstone

Christian group preaches 'the truth'

by Amy Brittain

Hamsa Haddad, Elementary Education sophomore (right), argues with Associate Pastor Charlie Kennon (left) over a religious issue in Free Speech Alley Tuesday.WOODVILLE, Miss. - The veins bulge from his neck. Blood rushes to his face as he stomps his foot and passionately shakes his fist.

Fiery, bellowing words engulf the gathered crowd of students listening yet often berating him.

But the Rev. Charlie Kennon, 36, children's pastor of the Consuming Fire Fellowship, says he preaches with love every other Tuesday in Free Speech Plaza.

"People misunderstand us," Kennon said. "They think we're hateful."

To find the roots of the Consuming Fire Fellowship, one must travel the winding Main Street in rural Woodville, Miss. - population approximately 1,200. The congregation of 60 members, formed in the mid-1990s at the home of the Rev. Britt Williams, is based on the Hebrews' biblical passage, "For our God is a consuming fire."

In a world of behavior restrictions, dedicated prayer and defined gender roles, they say their love for God guides the way?



CHURCH


Members of the Consuming Fire Fellowship in Woodville, Miss. mingled after the sermon on Sunday Sept. 17.   It's 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17. Nearly an hour and a half north of Baton Rouge, the Consuming Fire Fellowship gathers not in a church with a steeple but, rather, a modest office space within a small Main Street strip mall.

The place of worship is marked with only a small red sign that reads "Consuming Fire Fellowship" hanging above the covered walkway.

The children's service will begin promptly at 9:30 a.m., but for now, the adult congregation members roam the room reciting soft prayers.

Whispers of "Help me Jesus" and "Praise God" fill the mostly barren room with metal folding chairs and a traditional pulpit.

While their parents pray, most of the children sit quietly in their chairs. Families, particularly the mothers and children, tend to wear matching clothing. Soft floral patterns and pastel colors are popular choices within the congregation.

Kennon approaches the pulpit and begins his children's sermon. Today's discourse is based on Jonathan Edwards' famous "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" speech.

"This morning, I want to speak about children in the hands of an angry God," Kennon says. "Just because you are young, you are no exception to the wrath and the judgment of God."

There's no singing of "Jesus Loves Me" or holding of hands. Kennon preaches that once past the age of accountability, children are as responsible for their actions as adults. Congregation members, especially children, are discouraged from watching TV, having premarital sex, drinking alcohol or indulging in any fantasies.

He doesn't tone down his aggressiveness for the young crowd that consists mainly of toddlers and elementary-age children, although a few infants and teenagers are scattered amid the rows.

Kennon says the children will face an "awful doom" if they "refuse to surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ." Unlike the common image of fidgety children during church services, the children of the Consuming Fire Fellowship sit stone-still. They meet his words with stoic faces, rarely reacting to his raised voice or pumping fist.

After a 30-minute children's message, the congregation briefly breaks before the main sermon. Some children reach beneath their seats and roll out sleeping mats - in anticipation of a lengthy service.

Williams, 45, leads a brief musical worship before his sermon. As a University student in the 1980s, Williams battled drug addictions before having a "born-again" Christian experience, he said. He then began preaching with his wife in Free Speech Plaza.

There are no hymnals for Williams' congregation members because they have memorized the words to the lively, clap-inducing songs. One church member feverishly runs three laps around the room in a celebratory fashion.

Williams then begins his 90-minute sermon that is a mix of Biblical verses, comments about mainstream Christian churches and a woman's role in the congregation. The service concludes with "laying of the hands" to "heal" congregation members.

WOMEN'S ROLES


In the Consuming Fire Fellowship's summer newsletter, Kennon authored an article about the nature of fatherhood. Kennon writes that "most men today are effeminate, passive and visionless."

According to his article, the decline of masculinity is rooted in "the demonic philosophy of feminism" that has "shamefully given place to women in the military, board room and even the pulpit."

Williams said women should only pursue domestic roles, unless they are single and must provide for themselves. Women are also urged to dress conservatively, covering most of their bodies with loose dresses. Pants are not allowed, as they display a woman's curvaceous figure.

"Culture is wrong," Williams said. "The Bible is right."

Williams said his congregation is often labeled as "narrow-minded" and "Bible-thumping," but they live strictly based on the Bible's principles. He says women and men are "equal" but have different societal roles.

"It's a shame that America would even consider, say, Hillary Clinton being a president. It's pitiful," Williams said. "The culture should blush that it's that blind and that stupid. She's a woman. She has no business governing men."

Becky Gaharan, 33, joined the Consuming Fire Fellowship six years ago. As a divorced mother of three, Gaharan cleans homes and works with her teenage son's lawn business.

"God led me here," Gaharan said.

Gaharan was raised as a mainstream Christian. So when she decided to join the Consuming Fire Fellowship, her family and friends expressed concern and even labeled it a cult, she said.

"I was on the way to hell," Gaharan said. "But now me and my children aren't on our way to hell. They're going to hear the truth."

Gaharan said it's often difficult for secular or career-oriented women to understand women playing a submissive role in family life.

"It's often seen as bottom of the barrel," Gaharan said. "But it's a glorious cause."


CHILDREN

Grace Williams, 8-year-old daughter of Britt Williams, said she likes "everything" about the Consuming Fire Fellowship. Grace's mother, Bridget Williams, 37, home schools Grace and her eight siblings.

Britt Williams said the church promotes home schooling so children can receive a full and proper education.

"You wouldn't subject your children to [outside schools] if you believe it to be dangerous," Britt Williams said. "The Bible says that beginning of wisdom and understanding is the fear of God. And they've removed God from the equation."

Grace Williams said English is her favorite subject, and she wants to be a "Christian and a keeper at home" when she grows up. Being a home keeper means "to stay home and not go to work and cook for my husband and to home school," Grace Williams said.

In addition to schooling, Grace Williams helps her mother tend to her youngest siblings and cook meals during the day.

On this Sunday, the congregation has gathered for lunch at a member's home. Gallons of spaghetti sauce are needed to feed the tables of children and parents. Britt Williams said although most families in the church do have many children, the church does not take a stance on birth control.

Grace Williams describes her large family as "fun" and plans to have as many children "as God wants [her] to have."

Micah Williams, 15, is the oldest child in the Williams family. He first appeared in Free Speech Plaza as a 6-week-old baby.

"I love it. I've done it all my life. I came out there as soon as I was born," Micah Williams said. "It's normal to me."

Bridget Williams said her children enjoy going to Free Speech Plaza to pass out religious materials.

"We're accused of brainwashing our children and not letting them think for themselves," Bridget Williams said. "But that's so contrary to the truth."

The children are not scared any "more than MTV can scare them," Bridget Williams said.

"Are they concerned about our children? Truly?" Bridget Williams questioned. "I would venture to guess almost 50 percent if not more of those women kill their babies in their wombs, or at least agree that it's OK. They don't care about my children. They support abortion."

Micah Williams said his general impression is that "most people" don't like his congregation because they preach Biblical truth.

"It is the truth," he said. "It's the outright truth. LSU is probably where I get the most questions."

Micah Williams said people often asked if he is embarrassed when he appears in public dressed in the same apparel as his siblings. But he said he's never known another life, so he considers his family life to be normal.


FREE SPEECH PLAZA


When the Consuming Fire Fellowship arrived Tuesday, members congregated at the War Memorial on the Parade Ground to organize before moving to Free Speech Plaza. Unlike usual Tuesday demonstrations, Consuming Fire Fellowship members were approached this week by LSU Police.

According to Maj. Lawrence Rabalais, LSUPD spokesman, they were mistaken for abortion protesters and reported. An officer was dispatched to the scene and spoke with the Consuming Fire Fellowship.

Because of the incident, the Consuming Fire Fellowship was referred to Lyn Taylor, a coordinator in Finance and Administrative Services, for registration. According to Taylor, all off-campus groups are encouraged to register and the purpose of registration is not to restrict the group.

"The registration is just so that we will know who the groups are that are on campus," she said.

Britt Williams said Consuming Fire Fellowship members have been arrested "many times" for public preaching. But he said the Tuesday incident was a rare occurrence.

"In nearly 20 years of public evangelism at LSU we have rarely had difficulty with the authorities," Britt Williams said.

But he said campus police later told him that scripture banners could no longer be used because "the interior poles used for support could double as weapons."

Britt Williams said the congregation's University future will be "bannerless."

"I certainly hope these things are not a sign revealing a different tone regarding our ministry by the University," Britt Williams said. "We will see."

When Kennon preaches atop the raised walkway in Free Speech Plaza, he compares his actions to a father saving his child from a burning house.

Kennon said his facial expressions and actions may seem harsh, but if one observed a man trying to save a burning child, he would have the same expression. He said his actions are an attempt to save the lives of University students.

"If someone doesn't realize they're lost, they'll never seek a savior," Kennon said. "Men are having to see themselves as they are in the light of the Gospel."

 

 

 

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