Religious protest draws crowd in Risman Plaza

Matt Lofgren

At around 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, freshman Mary Burgardt was sitting in the student center eating lunch when two men entered Risman Plaza with a large yellow sign with “Jesus saves from Hell” written on it in black and red font.

Burgardt, an exploratory major, said she thought she had two choices as she walked out to the plaza.

“I debated at first for a few minutes and then I went back to my dorm and grabbed this piece of cardboard and wrote my sign,” Burgardt said. “Then all these people pretty much gathered.”

Her sign read in plain letters on a ripped up piece of cardboard:

“I am not here to tell you you’ll burn in hell. You are free to do as you please. I am without God and I’m a moral person.”

As Burgardt stood with her sign, across the plaza from two non-denominational protesters Jerry and John, who did not give their last names. They stood on a short brick ledge near the library to “preach the Bible,” John said.

“God hates homosexuality,” Jerry said.

Brittany Mohler, sophomore psychology major, said she was sitting in the plaza when the scene started to unfold.

“They kind of moseyed on over to this area here (near the library),” Mohler said. “I was raised in this religion, the Christian religion, and what they were saying was crossing so many lines.”  

As the crowds grew bigger he said most of the comments towards him and his cause were not positive.

“The majority [of comments are] negative but we expect that,” John said. “Jesus said that most of this world is headed for destruction and there [are] few that find their own way and we had a few come up and encourage us.”

Neither were Kent State students, but John said he was from Mount Vernon, Ohio.

While nothing turned violent, senior communications studies major Brandon Richards came across the tense scene and wanted to transmit a message of love.

“I just felt a lot of negative energy coming between both sides and my idea was not to pick sides and just keep peace and spread the love,” Richards said. “Nothing got out of control, I just wanted to spread my love and stand behind everyone here.”

Richards said when he got to the plaza, a lot of miscommunication was occurring. As more and more students showed up, Richards said he just didn’t want things get out of hand, so he offered hugs to people a simple way to cope.

Even John accepted his hug as an offering of peace.

Mohler did not offer any peace offerings as what she saw offended her.

“They have every right to what they believe,” Mohler said. “But, when it becomes offensive, that’s when I say something. You can’t sit there and allow an injustice like that to happen, to hurt so many people without standing up.”

Kent State University police were on the scene as a precaution to keep the peace.

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected].