By Cassondra Kirby/Editor
A one-man evangelical demonstration drew about 50 people in the Powell Plaza near the Meditation Chapel Tuesday as he shouted religious damnation to people walking to and from class.Donnie Morris’ demonstration lasted about 20 minutes before he was silenced by Eastern Public Safety officers for not having the required paperwork and approval through Eastern’s Student Life Office, according to Tom Lindquist, director of public safety.
Lindquist said public safety officers escorted Morris to the Student Life Office to fill out the correct paperwork required by people who wish to speak in the free-speech areas on campus.
Morris, from Georgia, was hoping to fill out the required paperwork and continue speaking in the Powell Plaza Tuesday, but employees of the Student Life Office informed him the information had to be filled out at least five days prior to speaking on campus, said Brandee Petrey, director of student programs. Morris and his wife were not planning to remain in Richmond for that long, however, and decided to leave, Petrey added.
During his short speech, however, some students at Eastern were upset by Morris’ message.
Tonya Allen, who was walking from the Wallace Building to the food court in Powell Tuesday, was one of those students.
When Allen, a Christian, saw Morris with a Bible tucked under his arm she thought, Bless him, Lord. I’m sure that’s a hard thing to do.
When she got closer to him, though she said she heard him say things like, “Most of you EKU students who are girls are whores. Most of you EKU students are on a pathway to hell. Do you hear me? You are going straight to hell.”
Allen said as Morris continued to speak, people started gathering along the second and third tiers of Powell. She said the crowd didn’t slow his insults as he continued to shout things like, “Anyone wearing three letters across their shirts are not fit to date.”
Allen said he called most students “whoremongers,” “drunkards” and said most students have sexually transmitted diseases.
She said two male students approached Morris to ask him to stop speaking and leave, but Morris just responded by asking them why they were angry at him when he was only speaking the truth.
Allen said eventually some students became so angry they began to spit on him. She said others were deeply offended as well and screamed back at Morris things like, “Are you calling me a whore?” and “Who are you to judge us?”
Allen said she was particularly hurt by Morris’ message.
“I think that anybody trying to spread the word of God should also spread the love of God,” she said. “I am a Christian, and it really hurt me that someone would think it is OK to spread God’s word like that.”
Although some students were upset with what Morris had to say, if he had registered properly with Eastern five days before his visit, he would have been allowed to stay, according to the Student Life policy.
Petrey said Eastern has an approval form for those who wish to use the free-speech areas on campus. She said the form designates specifically where people can speak on campus, including the back portion of the Powell Plaza and the Ravine.
“They need to register their events for the safety and security of them as well as others,” she said.
Petrey said this is why Eastern requires people to register their event at least five days in advance. This way the school can let all the appropriate people know and to make sure the space isn’t already occupied.
Petrey said she didn’t think anyone has ever been denied access to the free-speech areas, but she said some people have chosen not to fill out the form on their own accord.
“Everyone is approved as long as those individuals are not breaking any laws, causing harm to themselves or causing harm to others – it’s really just a registration process,” she said.
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