‘Sin Awareness’ Group Meets Student Opposition on National Coming Out Day
A group of Christian men from Cross-Country Evangelism this past Wednesday on National Coming Out Day preached and held “Sin Awareness Day” signs in front of the campus center.
The event was a university-approved public forum, which drew a crowd of students upset at the speaker’s views on sexuality.
Though the event began with Christian cornerstones such as Jesus’s death and resurrection, students became agitated when the group expressed their opinion that homosexuality is a sin. Chants such as “drown him out,” “God is gay,” and “love is love” repeatedly rose from the crowd, which grew to nearly two hundred students at around 2 p.m.
“Our objective is to share the word of God and preach the gospel,” said speaker Don Harman.
Erik Turnquist, a political science major who attended the event for roughly two hours, had a different impression.
“When somebody is out here saying someone should be hated for who they are, that is not what I am about and shouldn’t be what anybody on campus is about,” said Turnquist.
Turnquist and other attendees said that the speakers were condemning gays as sinners going to hell.
Footage and photos by Elise Coombs, video edited by Tyler A. McNeil.
“If this debate continues, it’s only going to be giving a voice to people who don’t deserve a voice to begin with,” said Turnquist.
The timing of the event on National Coming Out Day made students like Turnquist question their motives.
“They did it on purpose,” said Turnquist.
Other students appreciated the event, but not the speakers.
“I disagree with them, but I might as well hear their side so that I can better argue against it,” said Amelia Dejane, a transfer American history student.
The university allows third-party organizations to apply to use a designated public forum area, the roughly 1,000 square-foot space in front of the Campus Center, without charging the organization any fee to do so.
“Because University at Albany is a public entity, we’re required to provide a public forum,” said Kelsey Butz, a University Communications Specialist who was at the event.
The public forum page on UAlbany’s website reads, “As an institution of higher education, the University respects and fully supports the rights granted to individuals under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution regarding free speech.”
Cross-Country Evangelism founder Mike Stockwell, who works full-time doing street preaching funded by church or individual contributions, said that condemning the LGBT community was not the group’s main intention. However, speakers at the event repeatedly expressed views that, for example, transgenderism is immoral.
“We have no morals in this country,” said a speaker during the roughly four-hour-long event. “A man can wake up and say, ‘I feel like a woman,’ and a woman can wake up and say ‘I feel like a man,’ and we say it’s okay.”
Many at the event, including Peter Dupigny, argued with the five speakers. Dupigny, a Community Programs Coordinator for the Salvation Army, said the speakers were a bad representation of Christianity.
“As a group, the pastors of true Christian background don’t do this,” said Dupigny. “We band together and we help people.”
Dupigny, a self-professed Christian, organizes events such as home-cooked meals for those in need in the downtown Troy area.
“We show people love,” said Dupigny. Pointing to the event, Dupigny said, “That is a bad representation of love.”
Cross-Country Evangelism has been coming to the school for about three years now, according to member Don Harman. When asked how long he planned to continue street preaching, Don Harman replied, “until the Lord takes me home.”