Sermon receives student criticism

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

A right granted by the First Amendment allowed a traveling evangelist to preach between the Rotunda for Arts and Sciences and The Union on Oct. 21, though some students felt he should have been removed from campus.

Shawn Holes, known as Shawn the Baptist, shouted for students to repent and debated with a crowd about Biblical issues 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in front of The Union. He held a sign that on one side read, “Trust Jesus,” while the other side warned groups such as drunkards, evolutionists, sexual freaks, music idolaters and non-Christians that judgment is coming.

A steady stream of students stopped to listen or debate with Holes throughout the day.

Austin Havlik, a freshman aviation major, was part of the roughly 20-person crowd that gathered around 2 p.m. Like many students, Havlik said Holes discussed some interesting topics but was way too radical.

“He has good points, but he’s going about it in the wrong way,” Havlik said.

Jennifer Novotny, director of The Union, said her staff talked with several people who did not approve of the display.

“We had a lot of people who were concerned whether it was okay for him to be out there doing what he was doing,” she said. “They were wondering about the appropriateness.”

Though many students questioned it, Holes’ event was made possible by his constitutional right to freedom of speech. The university could not control the content of Holes’ event for that reason.

But as part of the public forum doctrine established by U.S. Courts, the university can place some restrictions on events by balancing freedom of speech with the government’s interest in managing its property.

SDSU’s restrictions for private, outside use of its facilities is outlined in South Dakota Board of Regents’ policy, Section 6:13. The policy states that since a university represents an investment by students and taxpayers for education and research, the university is not open to the public in the same manner as other areas, such as streets or parks. A private party may request the use of those facilities for meetings or events if the use is lawful, complies with the scheduling policies of the university, poses no risk of harm, does not interfere with intended use of the facilities and is not used for most commercial purposes.

Novotny said Holes went through the proper channels by letting staff know about the event and scheduling a space. Anytime someone requests to use a space on campus, Novotny’s staff works to accommodate that person the best they can. The university controls things like the time and place of the event, but does not control the event’s content, she said.

“We can’t be selective about who gets to speak and who doesn’t,” she said.

The SDSUPD was monitoring the event for both the safety of the students and Holes, Novotny said. Officers could have intervened if he stood in the way of students going to class, impeded traffic, physically accosted someone, damaged property or had exhibited disorderly conduct. Holes stayed within his limits and his reservation restrictions, she said.

Not everyone disapproved of Holes’ message, according to his blog. He said in a post Oct. 22 that one young woman encouraged him and prayed for him, while two other Christian ladies came up to thank God for Holes’ presence.

Some Christians were not as supportive of Holes’ event.

Rick Wipf, a pastor at the Brookings Wesleyan Church who leads the college ministry Oasis, said some of his students let him know that Holes was on campus. Wipf went to see Holes’ display around mid-afternoon.

“I really don’t think that’s how Jesus shared the truth,” Wipf said. “He did it in a different way, not in a combative way but more in a way of loving and serving.”

On Oct. 28, one week after Holes’ event, Wipf and a group of his students will have a free hot chocolate giveaway in the same location to show people on campus that not all Christians minister in the same way as Holes.

“I don’t have animosity toward those guys, but my concern is that people will think we are all like that and do the same thing,” he said. ” ? Our goal and desire is to show who Jesus is, what he taught and what he offers us.”

No matter which way onlookers felt about the display, Novotny said shutting down events because of content is a slippery slope and could, in the end, limit the speech of others.

“If you start censoring one person, who holds the gate on that?” she said.

#1.881315:1435623662.jpg:DSC_2702.1.jpg:Students gather outside of The Union to listen and debate with Shawn the Baptist as he shares his view on Christianity. :Amy Poppinga#1.881314:1840936706.jpg:Shawn.the.Baptist.AP.CMYK.jpg:Austin Havlik, a freshman aviation major, reacts to the comments of Shawn Holes, a traveling evangelist. Havlik said Holes made some good points but his delivery was inappropriate. :Amy Poppinga