Campus Visitors Cause Commotion in Academic Mall

Katie Bultman

_MG_9501 copyA Texas man arrived on campus Tuesday, Aug. 26, accosting students on the Academic Mall. He was heard yelling: “You’re going to hell,’ ‘You’re wrong,’ ‘You’re all heretics,’ ‘What you believe is wrong.’”

Chris LePelley, a preacher for Open Air Holiness Ministries, stood on the lawn and shouted at students. He wore a red shirt emblazoned with a list of those who he said were in jeopardy of  “coming judgment”: drunkards, abortionists, sex addicts, druggies,  homosexuals.

Freshman business/undeclared major, Kaitlyn Ryda, said she first noticed LePelley standing in the mall a little before 2 p.m., arguing with a student.

“I originally thought that it was some sort of prayer circle or something,” Ryda said. “His wife was sitting across the pavement just watching all of these kids yell at [him].”

Ryda quickly learned the gathering wasn’t a prayer circle. The students were arguing about a sign LePelley was carrying, which Ryda described as anti-gay and anti-woman.

LePelley later said he travels full-time, preaching to college campuses. NMU is his 33rd campus.

“I am up here with a brother of mine, a brother of the Lord, as the bible teaches,” LePelley said. “So we’ve just been staying with him in the southern part of the U.P. here, and we’re up here today preaching, and we will be back here tomorrow, possibly Thursday.”

U.P. resident Phil Lanz is hosting LePelley at his house, who is also up here with his wife, Catherine LePelley, and child.

“A few people do have a humble demeanor and I can talk to them in a way that they start to understand what we’re saying, but for the most part our message is rejected,” LePelley said. “Just like they rejected Jesus Christ’s message, the apostles’ message and the prophets.”

The campus police responded to the scene, but junior economics major, Mason Pearce, who witnessed the event, said it was mainly to maintain order. The main point of contention occurred when LePelley made derogatory, anti-feminist remarks toward a student.

“Just walking past, I saw a certain man preaching his word, anti-pornography, anti-drug use, anti-pre-marital sex,” Pearce said. “I saw another student who visibly disagreed with him and the man that was preaching got fairly worked up and he was making a pretty big scene. He was yelling, you know, not cursing, of course, because he’s against that. But he got really worked up and you could tell he was visibly agitated.”

Pearce said he saw senior environmental studies and sustainability major Mike Beck disagree with LePelley and Lane, the two campus preachers.

“What I saw and what I heard from them, unfortunately, was they were judging a lot of our campus community and they were telling us that we hated God,” Beck said. “I took offense to that  because when I look at our community here on campus and I look at our students and our groups, and to make a judgement of our campus and to say that we hate God, is a very strong message.”

Ryda, the business major freshman, said she saw a lot of people stating their beliefs, with a lot of yelling from LePelley.

“It’s understandable that people get upset because they’re sensitive issues,” Ryda said. “But…the preacher guy, he just kind of, he was really not professional about it. It was really upsetting to watch because you just have this grown man, like, screaming at college students.”

LePelley said he was getting a very negative reaction from students. “Opposition is the rule, not the exception.”