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Street preachers cause a commotion on campus

September 20, 2007

As students milled about the University Center last Wednesday, they were greeted by some familiar guests.

For the second year in a row, Brother George “Jed” Smock and his street preaching companion Michael Leisner shouted sins and condemned a large and vocal crowd of UW-River Falls students.

“I think that his (Smock’s) idea is good, but I think the way he is giving it is offensive,” junior Ciara Ahrens said.  “He is not getting his point across.”

Ahrens’ sentiments towards Smock were shared by many students in attendance, including senior Ben Hoglund who called him an “extremist to the extreme.”

Smock, an evangelist from Missouri who spearheaded the organization Campus Ministry U.S.A., said things relating to women being inferior to men and preached about such topics as pre-marital sex and homosexuality. His Web site, www.brojed.org, features a FAQ page, a “Bulletin Board” where people can post questions and comments and a section which lists the books and tapes he has for sale.

According to his business card, Smock has been “preaching the word of God for over 30 years.”  Even a simple YouTube search for “Brother Jed Smock” elicits 23 results, including videos of his appearances at other college campuses through the years and even clips of him and his wife Cindy on the “Sally” talk show in 1988. 

During their visit at UWRF, which lasted over four hours, Smock and Leisner faced opposition from students who chose to speak out against what they were preaching.

“He (Smock) is doing me a service by proving just how ridiculous what he believes is,” sophomore Trevor Tomesh, president and founder of the Freethought Society of UWRF, said.  “His logic is completely flawed and he doesn’t back it up. He’s doing nothing productive for society.”

Though the majority of students in attendance did not seem to agree with what Smock and Leisner were advocating, freshman Derrick Vail appreciated their presence and the words they spoke.

“I think he (Smock) is trying to prove God’s existence and disprove evolution,” Vail said.

At one point, Vail stood alongside Smock in challenging the beliefs and lifestyles of the students gathered. 

“This won’t work on the student body as a whole,” he said.  “We’re hoping that at least one person will listen.  If at least one person listens it will be worth it.”

After Smock had preached for nearly an hour – which included an impromptu song in where he sang, “It’s not okay to be gay, it’s not okay to be a homo” – Leisner took over and continued to put women down and demean their place in society.  He even told the crowd that his wife “mainly stays in two places – the bedroom and the kitchen.”

“God created women to have children,” he said.  “Why do you think women have breasts?”

Vail admitted that many of the students do not want to listen or will not listen, but hoped that they will still realize the message that Smock and Leisner were trying to get across.

“We do believe that what we’re preaching is the truth,” he said.

Tomesh, a “hardcore atheist,” said that Smock and Leisner would be “harming society if they actually influence people,” though he also noted that their presence on campus is a blessing in disguise.

“It is actually helping our campus community because it’s helping people realize how batshit crazy these people are,” Tomesh said.  “I’m glad they’re here on campus today because it’s showing how freakin’ ridiculous they are.”