Religious public forum aggravates plaza passers

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By Kylie Holman, Contributor

“Find salvation through Jesus: Churches are a joke.”
Some of you may have seen this phrase outside of the Milo Bail Student Center, written upon the largest homemade sign I have ever seen. Though the owner of this sign was trying to save our souls, most students probably saw this as an unanticipated speed bump on their morning commute. However as I turned up my iPod and dodged the ever-persistent flyer pushers, I couldn’t help but wonder if they were even allowed to be there.
What people say in public forums can not be censored based on content if it is protected by the First Amendment. What people say in nonpublic forums can be censored based on content, but not viewpoint. Technically, though public schools and universities are usually “nonpublic forums,” that area is considered a “public forum,” as it is a sidewalk. Forumception.
Yet even in a public forum, restrictions can be placed around expression which interferes with the area’s normal activity.
A college campus at noon is a hectic scene. Students and faculty are hustling to lunch and class without a second to spare. If you’re trying to get to calculus, the last thing you need is a sermon and seven fliers about the path to salvation. This disrupts the natural flow of the campus at its busiest time of day. Is this sufficient cause to ban on-campus activism?
Though this is America, where the First Amendment reigns supreme (as it should), I believe that a walk through campus should be a friendly environment free from harassment, no matter how well-intentioned.
I’m all for free speech and the right to assemble and all that jazz, but I don’t think anyone should be able to say anything, anytime and anywhere they please. I appreciate the concern for my personal relationship with Jesus, but I think I can manage the walk to class without facing eternal damnation.

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  1. The sign “Churches are a joke” is interesting. It implies isolation tactics for the converted, a trademark of cults.

    Indeed, someone with a similar message came to your campus in 2006 and was photographed. The bald prophet was brandishing a banner sign also apparently intended to isolate converts from churches: “Turn to Jesus, NOT CHURCH” (Search for the article “Religious bullies at UNO again” on this newspaper’s website.)

    The father of the group, at least the one mentioned at this news site in 2006, whom I am also convinced is the same family that crowded your walkways the other day (the father may or may not have been present but his adult children most likely were), was the preacher of Andrea Yates, the woman who in 2001 killed all five of her children by drowning them in a bathtub.

    Yates told psychiatrists while in jail she was a “bad mother” who was causing her children to “stumble” and that killing them in their innocence would save them from perishing in hell. She asked them if they were in heaven.

    “Where did Yates get these ideas?” Charles Gibson of ABC Good Morning America asked, Michael Woroniecki, “I haven’t any idea” a nervous Woroniecki responded.

    To read accurate documented information about the preacher in the major press, read “Are You There Alone?” by Suzanne O’Malley (2004) and “Breaking Point” by Suzy Spencer (2002). Be aware that according to Apologetics Index, a website devoted to documenting unorthodox religious movements and cult leaders:

    “In what comes across as somewhat of a PR campaign since early in 2010 the Woroniecki’s have established on online presence, including a website, a blog, and videos on Vimeo and Youtube. At the same time they have attempted to purge information posted elsewhere by critics. In some cases they have succeeded in doing so (e.g. Wikipedia and YouTube).

    Apologetics Index was asked by Joshua Woroniecki to remove this page. However, our policy is to encourage visitors to research any and all topics included in this website from a variety of perspectives. That is why we attempt to provide links to a variety of research resources — which can include pointers to pro- contra- or neutral information about the subject.”

    You can also reach the ABC article “Insanity Verdict” July 27, 2006 where ABC reporter Chris Cumo said “Her delusions were fueled by the extreme religious beliefs of a bizarre, itinerant street preacher named Michael Woroniecki”

    And according to “Yates Preacher Warned of Hellfire”, ABC Good Morning America, March 26, 2002:

    This is the same man Andrea Yates depended on for religious guidance. Psychiatrist Lucy Puryear told Cynthia Hunt of ABCNEWS’ Houston affiliate KTRK that Yates’ fate might have been different if she never met Woroniecki.

    “It’s heartbreaking,” Puryear said on Good Morning America. “She has schizophrenia. She still would have been ill, but I don’t believe she ever, ever would have drowned her children.”

    The few people on your campus they have shaken up with their message are in desperate need of this comment. My advice to them: Don’t be beguiled by preachers with isolation tactics. I know many concerned former college students who regret their decision to take this man’s message seriously. Even after several decades, some lives (O’Malley wrote) haven’t completely recovered from the damage.

    Clearly the lives of Andrea Yates’ children never will.

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