Special to Page One by University of Kentucky student Robert Kahne
Ask any student of the University of Kentucky about Brother Rick, Soulwinner Ministries, and the man dubbed “Crazy Old Guy” and they will invariably remember the first time their ears were assaulted with the words of these street preachers. It is a time-honored practice of street preachers to spread their message of hate in free speech areas at institutions of higher education. Recently, a street preacher at Morehead State University caused quite a controversy.
Here at UK, Soulwinners Ministries is a well-known group. This group of 4 African-American people and their children pop up on our free-speech area once or twice a semester, and hold up a sign decrying homosexuals, abortion, popular culture, anything sexual, and many other things. These guys always yell really loudly at passers-by and are always willing to argue for hours on just about anything. Soulwinners usually generate more debate and agitation than any of the street preachers because of their obvious commitment to their cause. Other street preachers are easily joked about because the things they say are so over-the-top and ridiculous that it is hard to think that even the preachers themselves take themselves serious. (See our friend, Brother Rick)
Now, Soulwinners Ministries are quite ridiculous. They claim on their shirts that “Real Christians Don’t Sin” among other things. They are also very hateful, saying “Homos Go to Hell” and such. Their jaunts to UK have always passed without incident; however recently, a trip to Morehead State sparked some controversy.
At Morehead, Soulwinners was met by dozens of protesters that spanned several races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations. Many of these appeared to be kids from campus ministries who are pissed that their religion is being hijacked. Others appear to be homosexuals who don’t like the fact that hate about them is being spewed on their campus. Other people seem to be there just to see the show. Soulwinners and the subsequent protests prompted the Dean of Students to e-mail the campus calling on people to protest peacefully and to avoid the free speech area if Soulwinners offended them.
Free speech is a fundamental tenet of our democracy. The ability to say anything we want without fear of prosecution has been used effectively to end slavery, give us women’s suffrage, end war, and to fight for civil rights. However, with the good comes the bad. Hate speech is still free speech, and as a society, we would do well to tolerate those whom we disagree with, and to protest them peacefully. While I hope we all agree (no matter what our political affiliation) that the message of Soulwinners is laced with hate and malice, I hope that we also agree that the protests that accompany our objection should be in good taste.