1 Cor. 1:18
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
LSU REVEILLE - late
Alley - Louisiana State University
The above pictures, taken from The Daily Reveille, show
Brother Britt Preaching at LSU's "Free Speech Alley" in the late
1980's. Brother Britt began his open-air ministry at LSU and it continues
today with Consuming Fire Fellowship's bi-weekly visits to campus to
preach the gospel.
LSU REVEILLE - early
Preachers at Union:
Greatest campus threat!
By Tim Boone
What is the greatest threat to LSU students today? Is it the threat of
drowning in the Quad on a rainy day? Is it the danger of going blind
trying to read the chalkboard in Dodson Auditorium? Is it the threat of
dying of old age while waiting in line to buy football tickets?
No ladies an gentlemen, the greatest threat to LSU students are those
friendly Union preachers. You know who we're talking about, those men and
women who stand on the benches in front of Free Speech Alley and damn you to
Hell because you didn't stop to listen to them.
of Speech is one o f the great things about America. The founders of the
this country gave us the right to say what we want, where we want, and how we
want. Without the First Amendment, we might as well move to Iraq and paint
portraits of Saddam Hussein on the sides of buildings. However, having the
freedom to say what you want doesn't give you the right to step on other
people's toes. When you shout passages out of the Book of Revelation so
loudly that you can be heard in the Quad, or call couples holding hands
"sinful fornicators," you are going too far.
If you feel that it is God's will for you to speak in front of the Union so
you can save those that pass by, that's great. Good luck. But
please, don't be so obnoxious to those who don't want to listen to you.
They aren't dragging you into their church, you shouldn't drag them into
Freedom of religion gives you the right to worship as you please without
persecution. It also gives you the right not to worship without
persecution. We need to remember this.
MORNING ADVOCATE - Front Page
Curiosity - Photo and caption
merchant Bob Roberts takes a close look at one of two people who
attracted a lot of attention as they strolled Third Street on Tuesday
afternoon wearing Grim Reaper costumes. Neither said anything, but
one carried a sign with a Bible verse about death and judgment.
REVEILLE - Early 1990's
enjoy taped message
Britt Williams, of Consuming Fire Ministries, was unable to make
his usual appearance at "Free Speech Alley" Wednesday
afternoon. Williams left a tape-recorded message in his absence,
so alley-goers wouldn't miss his weekly message.
LSU REVEILLE - Opinion
Page November 1991
Equal voice denied Alley
I have now been a student at LSU for 4 1/2 years and never in all those years
have I seen something that has made me so angry than what occurred on Nov. 22,
1991, at approximately 11 a.m. in front of the student union.
My fiancé and I stopped to listen to a fellow student (actually she only
assumed that Bro. Britt was a student as he appeared much younger ten years ago)
standing on top of a bench in front of the Union in what is known as "Free
Speech Alley." Ironically enough, I learned later that day that the
"Alley" is only "open" for "free speech" on
Wednesday afternoons. the gentleman was quite interesting and he had a
message to share. He was still speaking when we decided to go into the
Union to grab a drink before our next class.
Once we got on the second floor, I happened to glance out the front window,
and I noticed a small crowd gathering on the front lawn only about 10 feet away
from the gentleman on the bench. In the center of the crowd was a
television camera. I glanced back over to the gentleman, and by that time,
an LSU campus police officer had the gentleman in handcuffs.
My fiancé and I were enraged over the fact that this man was doing no harm
in sharing his message. Moreover, the reason behind his being arrested is
what prompted me to write this letter.
While I was on the telephone on the second floor of the Union discussing with
a friend the legality of this man's arrest, an employee of the LSU Union, who
worked at the information desk, overheard my conversation and was compelled to
interrupt me by her boasting, "We were the ones who called campus
police." I immediately ended my conversation and sought more
information from the employee. From what she told me, the gentleman was
"disturbing the peace" because "Free Speech Alley" was
Later, I found out the real reason. I overheard someone say that
Channel 2 (WBRZ) asked the people at the Information Desk to call the police
because they were trying to film some clips for "America's Funniest
People," and the gentleman was interfering with their filming.
Maybe it all wouldn't have been so terrible if I hadn't going back
outside. As I passed the ever-growing crowd, I distinctly heard the
director tell the crowd to "yell" the words "ooh" and
"aah" in unison. The choral response resounded much louder than
that of the gentleman. Where were campus police when the crowd was
"disturbing the peace?" And what makes television have different
constitutional rights than individuals? What is free speech? What is
"disturbing the peace?"
I am constantly bombarded with some of the moral values I inherited from my
parents. The gentleman was speaking of God, our Father; the television
station was "speaking" of money. I have no grand conclusion to
this letter; I have no flourish. Only this I have to offer: Maybe we
should look at where our priorities lie, and if we need to change them, we
UNIVERSITY TECH TALK -
Religious group Invades
By Renee Simmons
Last week students where able to hear the gospel spewing forth from atop
benches in the Quadrangle. Spontaneous sermons laced with fire and
brimstone left passers-by sluggish from intrigue.
On Friday Scott Coleman, a sophomore nursing student at Tech who had been
preaching during the week, was joined by approximately 15 others from Bethany
Full-Gospel School in Monroe as they shared their beliefs with students who
wandered by their make shift pulpit.
The group carried signs, with one reading "Repent and know that Jesus
shed his blood for you." Some of the sign showed human faces with
flames surrounding them.
"There are people perishing and they need to know the truth," Jessy
Cummings, a member of the group said.
Another member of the group, David Lubefski, said that "most of the
people out here really need God in their life."
Some students and university staff questioned the effect of the groups
efforts. "I think they're scaring people off, not attracting
them," Peter Watson, a sophomore journalism major said.
Lori Otwell, a Tech Bookstore employee said, "I believe in the Lord, but
I think they're carrying it too far."
Gerald Reeves, director of the Tech Bookstore, said he admired the group and
respected them for their efforts, but he felt they may have been turning
students away from religion. "This gentleman is speaking about a God
of judgment," Reeves said. "He's a God that will meet all
needs." Reeves was referring to a member of the group who was
speaking at the time. Reeves said he felt that the group might have made
the students feel as if they were being scared into salvation.
Dr. Jean Hall, Vice President for student affairs, said that although the
university is open to speakers and groups, they are usually not allowed to speak
in the Quadrangle. Hall said that the university had the right to ask
speakers to leave if they were disrupting the academic mission. Although
the group was not asked to leave, they later left on their own accord.
BATON ROUGE MORNING
ADVOCATE - Summer 1993
preaching spurs protests
Victoria L. Coman
Several downtown merchants say they aren't trying to stop religious freedom -
they just don't want it screamed into their customers' ears. Bob Roberts,
owner of Riverside Shoe Repair, said he had had enough of five preachers who
stand on Third Street and shout sermons to passersby.
several customers complained, Roberts went out to the street Wednesday to
confront the preachers with a sign saying "Please Leave You Are Bad For
Business." Customers "come down here to do business with us.
They don't want to be harassed," Roberts said. "He (one of the
preachers) said he didn't care about the businesses down here. He just
wanted to save souls," Roberts said.
The preachers have been gathering on Third Street since the
beginning of June, from about 11:30 a.m. until after 1 p.m., Roberts said.
Britt Williams, associate pastor of the non-denominational
Redeeming Word of Life Church, said he was called by God to preach on Third
Street six weeks ago. "I came to preach for Jesus," he said
between speeches. "Come to Jesus Christ. He died for you. So
confess!" Williams, 32, said he has been preaching for six years and
will continue to preach on the streets no matter how much he is told to
stop. "You've got these so-called dignified, conservative individuals
who go to church, will go to an LSU football game, stand up and do dances over a
leather ball and a chalk line on a field," he said. "But they
are offended that I'm on this street to talk to them about God," he said
hoarsely as he wiped sweat from his arms and forehead. He said the group
preaches on several streets in Baton Rouge, often in front of bars.
Three men in their early 30's, including Williams, and two
teenage boys shouted and passed out religious tracts to lunch-goers with titles
ranging from "How To Be Saved" to "The Sinning Church
Shane Miller, 18, sported a T-shirt proclaiming "Consuming
Fire Youth Group - Where It's Uncool To Be A Heathen - Turn or Burn."
Miller said he has been street preaching for two months. He said he was
told he had the "calling to preach" by another member of Redeeming
Pete Richoux, owner of Richoux's restaurant, said the preachers
"aren't even using a regular tone with the people. They are howling
at people" and reducing customer visits to his business.
Donna Knapp, owner of Donna Jean's shoes, said the street
sermons have slowed customer visits to her business too because people are
avoiding the street. "They are so boisterous; I think they
scare the people off," she said.
Richoux said he had called the police about the preachers.
"The police have come out here, stood and watched. They've (police)
said as long as they're not stopping people from walking on the sidewalk or
blocking traffic, there's nothing they could do," he said.
A city police officer sitting under a nearby tree said she stays
on the street to answer questions. "We get a complaint every time
they come out here. The merchants and the employees around here in the
area say they can't do work because of the noise," she said.
"There's no law that says they can't come and say what they feel because
it's freedom of speech."
Reactions from the people on the street have been mixed.
Charlotte Guidroz, director of public relations at Louisiana Home, said she can
hear the preachers while in the building on a higher floor at work.
"I think it's very annoying. It's worse when you're high up,"
Glifford Dunbar, an accounting specialist at Louisiana
Department of Social Services, said he goes to lunch downtown everyday and he
isn't affected by the preachers. "It doesn't bother me because it is
freedom of speech," he said.
UNIVERSITY TECH TALK -
ministry causes campus concern
By Mike Williams
Four members of Consuming Fire Ministries in Liberty, MS, were arrested by
University Police April 4 for simple trespass. Charles Kennon, 25, of
Waskom, TX; Daren B. Williams, 34, of Centreville, MS; Craig Smith, 30, of
McComb, MS; and Tony Roberts, 36, of Liberty, MS, were taken to the Lincoln
Parish Detention Center after being arrested by University Police Chief Stephen
Quinnelly and other Tech Police officers.
"We told them to leave and they refused. The fact that they had a
religious message was not why they were arrested. They were arrested
because they harassed students," Quinnelly said.
When asked about their methods, CFM member Williams said, "We are very
confrontational. If you knew someone who was going to die and you could
stop them, wouldn't you be confrontational?"
Andy Hearst, director of Tech's Wesley Foundation, said, "Those guys
have nothing to do with any campus ministry. They were not invited by any
campus ministry. They obviously push the bounds of free speech."
Many Catholic students were particularly upset about the group's methods of
evangelism. "He offends me with this. How can he come up here
and say that about my religion?" Andrew Maestrini, a junior mechanical
engineering major, said.
Williams said, "Catholics preach heresy. If I love them I must
When asked for his response to the group's position on Catholicism, Father
Jerry Thelen, director of the Catholic Student Center, said, "Any group
that condemns another group is working against the ideal that we are all Christians."
CFM members began preaching April 3. Quinnelly said by the following
day, Tech police had received numerous complaints.
Bill Prescott, director of Tech's Campus Crusade for Christ said,
"Ministering is being able to talk with people about Jesus. It should
be done in a manner that is relevant and compassionate. I don't know if
these people meet the criteria."
Williams said this was not the first time his group has had trouble with the
law. He claimed that he has been arrested 12-20 times. "They
asked us to disobey God. I just got back from Russia, and I had more
liberty to preach there," Williams said.
The group's action and the police's reaction have caused some campus
ministries to be concerned. Hearst said, "One of my concerns is that
they (CFM) will feel empowered by the arrest. I wouldn't be surprised if
In the midst of Resurrection Week and just prior to Easter, many Christian
organizations at Tech would like to clear up any misconceptions brought about by
members of Consuming Fire Ministries.
"It does create some opportunity to say that's wrong, now let's talk
about what's right," Hearst said.
The four members of Consuming Fire Ministries were released on $500 bond each
and await a May 3 arraignment.
UNIVERSITY TECH TALK -
Radical religion harmful
By Liz Allen
Last week in the Quadrangle five men created quite an uproar. Part of
"Consuming Fire Ministries," these men - who were in no way affiliated
with any Christian campus organization - screamed to the point of damaging their
vocal chords. In an abrasive and confrontational manner they barged into
people's lives with the information that everyone on this campus, including
myself, was destined for an eternity in hell.
This accusation was made without any knowledge as to what convictions I, or
anyone else, might have concerning God and Jesus Christ. At first I
thought that the screaming was a group of harmless people sharing their beliefs
in an extreme way. But later I began to realize that these men were
anything but harmless.
They insulted people as human beings and freely wielded a sword of bitterness
at anything that moved. Those men do not live here day in and day
out. They do not go to class with anyone on this campus, and they never
tried to befriend anyone. They had absolutely no idea what the Christians
on this campus are tying to do, and how they are trying to be accurate
reflections of Christ. These men came to judge with the wrath of God and
presented an image of an evil ruler who was waiting to squash His subjects like
a bug. They were angry, bitter, and militant. They didn't know
anyone, and they didn't want to know anyone. It's a lot easier to judge
people from far away, where all emotion is removed, and throw stones from an
ivory tower. Or should I say a glass house?
It seemed the main objective of the group really wasn't to change anyone's
life for the better, but rather to hear themselves scream. More
importantly than this, however, was that they felt it was some sort of an honor
to have everything they said completely and utterly rejected. As if it was
a medal or badge to pin on their shirts that would symbolize persecution
suffered in the name of Christ.
If the example set by Christ is what we as Christians are to live, the men
screaming in the Quadrangle represented anything but Christ-like behavior.
The Jesus I serve never stereotyped people and placed them in little boxes on a
shelf that were marked Catholic, friends of the earth or sinners. The last
category is the most obviously and utterly absurd since everyone and their
brother's sister's mother's dog is a sinner, including the radical evangelists
who were on our campus.
Christ came to this earth to be a friend to the friendless, to give hope to
the hopeless, to love those that no one else would love and to be a
servant. These are the attributes that Christians should possess, but many
times do not. These are characteristics that I want to reflect to others,
not anger and bitterness; people see enough of that.
People need to see that there is hope and that somebody on this campus
genuinely cares about whether they live or die. I believe that the only
way to have that hope is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and
that it is through this relationship, that people will live forever in heaven.
I think that Christians need to put away the stones, leave and
forever lock the doors of their glass houses. They should stop talking
about what it means to be a follower of Christ and actually just be one.
If people tried to act in a manner that reflected a life lived in love with
Jesus Christ there wouldn't be any need to worry or become offended by people
like those from Consuming Fire Ministries. We would just love them too.
It's not as hard to love people as it might initially
seem. Just look at Jesus.
LSU REVEILLE -2/15/01
Voicing beliefs: pastors
preach religious ideals
By Tracy Simoneaux
Preach On: Brother
John Duncan vehemently asserts his beliefs Wednesday in Free Speech
Alley. "We are here to expose the sin at LSU so that men might
see their wickedness, turn from all their sins, and they might truly
be saved," Duncan said.
Large crowds of students have gathered in Free Speech Alley for the past two
weeks listening to both accusations and Bible passages.
While some of the outbursts have come from University students, most cries
are the preachings of a group of visiting evangelists.
"We are going to all the world and preaching the gospel," said
Britt Williams, pastor of Consuming Fire Fellowship. "We go anywhere where
there are groups of people, including LSU."
Williams and his group are visiting from a Christian church in Woodville,
Miss. With two traveling campus evangelists, Brother John Duncan and Brother
Matt Bourgault, they have come to the University to preach a message of
"LSU denies existence of God and truth of scripture," Williams
said. "I stand opposed to an institution that would reject God."
The evangelists want to promote Christianity and Jesus. They encourage
individuals to make peace with God and to enter a personal relationship with
Jesus through faith and repentance.
"We are here to expose the sin at LSU so that men might see their
wickedness, turn from all their sins, and they might truly be saved,"
LSU REVEILLE -
Free Speech Alley demonstrations ignite
with signs condemning masturbators, homosexuals and Catholics, children handing
out pamphlets with the image of the Grim Reaper on the cover and the sound of
people screaming hateful comments heard throughout the Parade Ground — all in
the name of religion.
Free Speech Alley was the setting for more heated debate this week as Consuming
Fire Fellowship preached to students as they made their way to class and to the
The debates brought out more of the yelling, name calling, laughter, in-depth
and one-on-one discussions and even burning of religious handouts that students
have come to expect.
“There’s usually a mixed reaction,” said pastor Britt Williams.
“Generally, the response is that some are curious, some are offended and some
are sincerely interested.”
“Offensive” is one of the main words students use to describe the actions of
the Consuming Fire Fellowship, and Williams acknowledges this, saying it is
because the nature of the message is confrontational.
Many students feel the remarks preachers made toward them are wrong and should
not be allowed in Free Speech Alley.
Media Law professor Louis Day said Consuming Fire Fellowship members have the
First Amendment right to speak their point, and the University has the right to
make reasonable accommodations for it to take place.
“But it’s obviously uncivil if the kind of language they use would entice
someone to fight,” Day said.
Biology freshman Emily Hartfield said watching the students and the pastors
debate is amusing.
think they are getting people’s attention, but they are not conveying the
message at all,” Hartfield said.
Moyer, a music education freshman, said he feels the preachers are not getting
their message across because students just come by to mock them. Moyer
added if they would step down from the benches they preached from and spoke more
civilly, their message would reach more people. “In a way, I think they
do a lot better when they follow up the conversations with one-on-one
discussions afterward,” said philosophy senior Chiceaux Lynch. Lynch
explained further that people with honest disagreements and honest questions to
ask would choose to speak one on one and not draw so much attention. But
the preachers’ finger-pointing and confrontational style is what upsets
students the most.
“What he is saying is totally wrong,” said biology freshman Deanna Barnes.
“He’s judging people, and he doesn’t even know who they are.”
sciences freshman Bryn Manning said she feels most students are upset because
they do not like being told they are evil or are sinning. Other
organizations handle things in a more civilized manner by handing out pamphlets
and speaking from their designated tables, Manning aid. “I haven’t
seen one person, in the two years that I’ve been here, give them a positive
reaction,” said kinesiology sophomore Mary Duffy. Some students also
found it wrong that the preachers brought their children out on the cold days
this week to witness the debate, which sometimes involved rude language.
“They always bring their kids out here with signs they don’t understand,”
The greater crime is for the preachers to come out to Free Speech Alley to
harass students with the children present, Manning added. However, Scott
Lewis, one of the members of the Fellowship who also brought his children, said
it is beneficial to the children for them to learn the ways of Jesus by sharing
matter what, the Fellowship continues to bring in crowds of listeners, whether
to poke fun, to debate or to take advice. “This is better entertainment
than you can find on television,” said French and international studies
sophomore Mandy Moolekamp.
NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT - 8/21/02
of strip club lead to complaint against area minister
WOODVILLE - A local motel
manager has filed a complaint against a preacher she says is disturbing the
peace with his protests at a nearby topless dance club.
Meanwhile, the pastor says his actions are
"Last Friday night was horrible -
everybody in my motel complained," said Margaret Rutkowski, manager of the
Magnolia Inn. Rutkowski said protesters - members of the Consuming Fire
Fellowship Church in Woodville - spend weekend nights shouting at patrons of
Illusions Gentlemen's Club.
"He screamed until three or four o'
clock in the morning," said Rutkowski, referring to Darren Britt Williams,
pastor of the church.
"My guests were complaining that these
people were keeping them awake," she said.
Rutkowski said she called the Sheriff's
office Saturday night and filed a formal complaint Monday.
"I understand their right to
protest, but not when it affects my business," said Rutkowski.
But Williams said he is preaching - not
protesting. "I don't refer to it as protesting - we are preaching the
gospel in open air," said Williams.
Williams acknowledged that he shouts,
sometimes into the early morning hours, but does not use any amplification
devices. "I'm no louder than the 18-wheelers that roar by on the
highway," he said.
On Tuesday, Williams said he had not yet been
charged in connection with Rutkowski's complaint, but he was not surprised.
"I've been arrested probably a dozen times over the years, but I've never
been convicted," said Williams.
Williams said he was once charged with
disturbing the peace for preaching in front of the riverboat casino in Natchez,
but he said the charge was later dropped. Williams said if he is arrested
he will attain legal representation and fight the charge through the judicial
system. "The preaching of the gospel in open air seems to be rejected
more in this community than the strip club," Williams said.
Illusions owner Ray Johnson said his manager
filed a trespassing complaint against Williams in July, but he said the charge
was somehow dropped. "I don't know exactly why, but nothing was done
then," Johnson said.
Williams said he was not trespassing, and the
charges were dropped for lack of evidence. "I knew where the public
servitude was - I've been preaching for 15 years, and I'm very familiar with the
Rutkowski said club patrons have also gotten
into shouting matches with the protesters, who gather along U.S. 61 in front of
the club. "I live here with my kids, and they have to hear
this," said Rutkowski, adding that she fears someone will get hurt if the
Williams said his preaching has led to
physical confrontations in the past, including an incident last Friday night in
front of the topless bar. "I was attacked and beaten by a guy. I've
been beaten many times, but I don't report it. I just forgive them through the
Lord," he said.
Johnson said he was not present, but has
heard about the incident. "From what I understand, he got into a
confrontation with one of the customers," said Johnson.
Like Rutkowski, Johnson said the situation
needs to be addressed before someone gets seriously injured.
Despite the dangers, Williams says he has
gotten results over the years. "Most of the people mock and threaten,
but over time we help some people," said Williams. Williams said he
has had some good conversations with some of the bouncers and dancers from the
club. He said he has only their spiritual well-being at heart. "When
they see that you really believe what you are preaching, then they begin to
listen," Williams said.
At a meeting of the Wilkinson County Board of
Supervisors on Monday, Sheriff Reginald Jackson said his office has received
complaints from both Rutkowski and Johnson. Jackson asked supervisors to
mark the property lines at the club so his deputies can clearly identify any
Attorney Ron Senko assured Jackson that the county engineer could provide such
NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT - 10/30/2002
Preacher' keeping track of his rights to free speech
WOODVILLE - At first glance, the 28th annual Woodville Craft Fair was like
many other small town bazaars. People mingled on the courthouse square, chatting
with the artists and admiring their work. Children played with hand-crafted toys
on the sidewalk under the shade of huge live oaks. But suddenly a voice
thundered across the lawn from the northwest corner of the square: "REPENT!
Before it's too late, repent of your evil ways!"
A man, standing on the street corner and carrying a sign reading "Obey
the Bible!" was shouting relentlessly to visitors at the craft fair.
"What would you do if Christ came here today? You would nail him to a cross
and crucify him," he screamed.
Darren Britt Williams - another preacher from the independent Pentecostal
church Consuming Fire Fellowship - walked along the street, assisting the first
pastor with the high-volume homily.
Williams knows his work is not always popular with crowds.
"When I walked across that street to the fair, I knew I had
'party-pooper' written on my forehead," said Williams, who refers to his
work as "preaching the gospel in open air."
Indeed, some of the participants in the recent craft fair were put off by the
preachers, who stood near where the Wilkinson County Homemaker Volunteers were
selling chances to win a hand-sewn quilt.
The Volunteers sponsor the fair each year and raise money for charitable
causes. But visitors and vendors could barely communicate on the sidewalks and
streets near that corner.
One Volunteer said the screaming probably had a negative effect on the
groups' sales at the fair.
"We donate our proceeds to the Children's Hospital in Jackson and to the
4-H clubs. But people don't like to shop when they are being screamed at,"
said the volunteer, who requested anonymity.
"I understand freedom of speech, but that's excessive," said James
Gauthier, a retired firefighter from Dry Prong, La. Gauthier and his wife,
Belinda, were selling crafts at a booth near the preacher.
Williams and his fellow ministers travel regularly to preach in public
places, such as LSU's Free Speech Alley and last year's SEC football
championship game in Atlanta.
Their loud and blunt messages often stir criticism and anger.
"If you look at the open-air sermons that Jesus preached, almost half of
them ended in an uproar with people wanting to stone him," said Williams.
Williams admits that some people in the immediate proximity of the shouting
may be aggravated by the volume, but he believes the real objections arise from
the spiritual message.
"That's what stirs the hatred up - when sin is confronted. But there is
nothing more important than the proclamation of the gospel," said Williams.
The preachers' constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion are
weighed against state laws, which prohibit disturbing the peace in public
places. Violations of these laws are prosecuted as misdemeanor crimes in county
"If a law enforcement agency brought charges for any solid violation of
our disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct statutes, then we would prosecute
it," said Wilkinson County prosecutor Holmes Sturgeon.
Williams' evangelical outings have drawn legal challenges before, including a
recent complaint from the manager of local motel.
Williams spends weekend nights preaching from the roadside to patrons in the
parking lot of Illusions Gentlemen's Club - a topless bar on U.S. 61 south of
The bar is adjacent to the Magnolia Inn, where manager Margaret Rutkowski
said Williams' nighttime sermons kept her guests awake. In August, Rutkowski
filed a complaint against Williams for disturbing the peace, but the charge was
later dismissed after Rutkowski chose not to pursue the case.
Williams said he has been arrested several times on similar charges in
connection with his public preaching, but said he has never been convicted in
any of those cases.
LOUISIANA UNIVERSITY'S LION ROAR - 11/21/02
react to Christian speakers
Students passing through the Student Union last Thursday or Friday would have
found themselves getting an earful from members of the Consuming Fire Campus
Ministry who were calling passersby "heathens, whores" and even
"faggots" as they struggled to save souls with the words of God.
"My goal is to awaken sinners on campus," said Matt
Bourgault, a preacher from Florida who travels the country with his young son
and who organized the religious event. "The Judgment is coming. We are not
here to save. Only Jesus can save. Men can repent and they will be saved."
Bourgault sermonized by himself on Thursday, but was joined
by two additional religious speakers on Friday who were affiliated with a church
in Mississippi. Bourgault was at the center of the sermon that attempted to
preach Christianity to 'sinners.' The preachers also carried signs that said
"Gods judgment is coming, Catholics, hypocrites, potty mouths, fornicators,
sodomites and Mormons."
The message was not very well received by many Southeastern
students. Music and Dramatic Arts Instructor Robin Steptoe, along with the help
of a few passionate students held a "silent" protest by demonstrating
with signs rather than arguing with the religious speakers.
"They need to realize that their message of hate will
not be tolerated on this campus," said Steptoe.
The students' protest was designed to encourage onlookers to
"walk away" and "don't listen to him." Students joined in
clapping hands and singing in an attempt to drown out the preachers words. One
student even barked loudly at the preachers. The commotion of a boisterous
preacher hollering insults as well as several students with signs, served to
only increase the number of curious onlookers.
"It's just like looking at a car accident," said
Lee Sutton, a SLU student.
Other students also joined in protest attempting to drown out
the preachers. Student David Brignac stood on a park bench along side of the
preachers and began reading passages from "The Dali Lama - Ethics for the
"When you hit them up on an educated argument, they shut
up," said Brignac.
Student Conor McGibbony, caused more excitement among the
crowd when he showed up wrapped in a sheet and bearing a striking resemblance to
Jesus. He attempted to draw the crowd away from listening to the preachers by
offering tidbits of bread purchased from Subway as a sign of peace.
"My friends, this message of hate is fueled by you
standing here," said McGibbony. "Come and follow me away from his
Some students in the crowd were surprised that the university would allow this
sort of demonstration.
"I don't think this has any place on campus, it's not
the religious aspect, it just doesn't belong here," said SLU student and
protester Josh Tillitson.
University officials and members of SGA conceded that the
laws concerning freedom of speech are what allow this sort of religious
sermonizing to occur on campus with the consent of the university.
"We have to follow the law as much as we can while still
protecting the students," said Assistant Dean of Student Development Jim
"Regardless of the conflict this causes, it is a fine
expression of freedom of speech, one of the founding principles of our
country," said SGA President Jeremy Price. "It's democracy at
LOUISIANA UNIVERSITY'S LION ROAR - 11/21/02
As the History major approached the Student Union, he had to
adjust his baseball cap to ward off the overwhelming sense of deja vu he felt.
Last year he'd witnessed a similar spectacle to the one he now saw: an intense
Christian zealot yelling out a philosophy that basically equated "All y'all
going to Hell except me and mine, so come with me if you want to live."
He wasn't exactly sure if it was the same guy; if not, the
newbie certainly went to the same spiteful, bombastic school. From last year, he
remembered in particular a confrontation that the militant had with a fed-up
observer decked out in black. The observer stated that the militant was wrong
about everything, with the most glaring error being the methods used to reach
the masses. Unsurprisingly, the militant wasn't open to constructive criticism.
He launched a major shouting war that resulted with the observer turning to all
witnesses and pleading something like, "Don't let this jerk scare you off
from Christianity. You go decide for yourself."
The History major didn't remember seeing an organized protest against the
"man of God" last year, but there certainly was one this time. Maybe
that observer in black organized this, the History major thought. It was
certainly plausible, though really, he could see anyone doing this. He saw a
united group of Christians from a church he's heard of called Harvest. They were
calmly (as could be expected, anyway) yet passionately trying to get the
militant to see the flawed logic in his ideology. At one point, after
encountering a virtual brick wall of close-mindedness to a different view, the
apparent leader of the Harvest group proclaimed sincere-like, "I love
you," and was quickly and bitterly answered with "You don't love
me." The contempt of the militant was so evident that it was as if it had
taken on a visible form and stood right beside him, glancing with approval.
The History major was taken aback. Last time he heard,
Christians weren't supposed to be so quick to judge, unless he was just getting
his philosophies confused. He turned and saw a young woman being advanced on by
one of the militant's coworkers. The woman was in tears as she screamed,
"Shut up!" He looked away from this scene and was momentarily shocked
when he spotted Jesus Christ, or, more accurately, SLU's replica of Christ. The
amazement at this sight soon took second place in his mind to this thought:
Would Jesus be pleased at what he saw? Specifically, the History major wondered
if, in fact, the zealots were correct. Maybe most of us were depraved and maybe
the zealots were confirming their rightful place in a future heaven with their
That's when the History major stole a look at the main
enthusiast once more, catching the sight of a very ugly grimace, shaking with
righteous anger. No, make that self-righteous anger.
With that small distinction made, the student knew for
certain that he was just looking at a warped, modern-day version of Christ, the
ultimate prophet. Though he wasn't near being called a Bible scholar, there were
still certain facts he knew from his studies of Jesus. For one thing, he never
recalled reading of an instance where Jesus stood in a public square, giving
looks of extreme constipation to those he wanted to save. He never recalled
having read of Jesus relentlessly condemning anyone he could think of while
looking at them in disdain, already picturing them and their screams in Hell as
they're forever consumed by the frightful licks of supernatural fire. The only
image he knew of Jesus was a loving kind that was even present when, in his sole
instance of powerful rage, he railroaded the corrupt for turning His father's
temple into a den of thieves.
Though Jesus could've literally been considered "Holier
Than Thou," one wouldn't have known it from the prophet's recruitment
tactics. Christ sought out common fishermen to be his disciples, and he actively
searched for those who fell short of the glory, often communing with them over
dinner as well as being an appreciative guest in their homes.
Realizing all this, the History major turned away from the
madness, satisfied at his knowledge. As he walked away, he wondered if these
modern counterparts of Jesus would ever remember to utilize the ways of the
It could happen, he thought. Maybe.
And on that note, dear readers, take care, and God bless.
ENTERPRISE JOURNAL - 6/1/2003
Sin and Salvation:
Strip club invites ire
of street preachers
WOODVILLE — Facing Illusions strip club, Charlie Kennon raises his arms,
brings cupped hands to his mouth for amplification, and above the din of cars
and 18-wheelers, yells:
“I warn you tonight, men: God’s eyes are upon you. Your wife may not know
where you are tonight. Your little girl may not know where you are tonight. But
rest assured, God knows exactly where you are tonight.”
Illusions sits about six miles north of the Mississippi state line on Highway
61, surrounded by little else. A back-lit sign that reads “Girl, girl,
girls” beckons to passing motorists.
Kennon, who is associate pastor of Consuming Fire Fellowship Church, church
leader Britt Williams and a few other members of the independent Pentecostal
denomination have preached to patrons of the strip club every Friday night since
it opened last July, often bellowing their Biblical message.
From 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. on a recent Friday night they position themselves on
the nearest piece of public land in front of the building, a few hundred feet
from the front door and just off the shoulder of Highway 61. Wearing placards
adorned with scripture, they pace the patch of dirt.
“This wicked establishment was created so that men could love and please
and gratify their own selves at the expense of Christ,” Kennon hollers. “You
ought to be ashamed tonight, that you have chosen to live a life in defiance
against the righteous and reasonable commandments of God. There is no excuse.
This is defiant treason and rebellion against the almighty.”
Several patrons walking in and out of the club seem to skulk, eager to get
out of earshot.
BAR OWNER ACCEPTS STREET PREACHER
Illusions owner Ray Johnson of Baton
Rouge said the roadside spectacle is a nuisance but claims Williams and company
are good for business.
“We’re not happy with him and what he says. He calls everyone that comes
in a pervert, or a female a whore. I mean, loudly,” Johnson said. “Actually,
as a far as him being on the road, it’s done more good for us than bad. He
actually draws attention to the place — people that didn’t know it was here,
But Williams, 42, is motivated not by the number of people he convinces but
by a calling to preach the Gospel.
“Literally, the word in the Greek, ‘preach,’ means a public crier,”
“There’s directives in the Scriptures. Obviously, there’s the Great
Commission which is to go out and preach the Gospel, and that’s more than just
going to church. That’s actively going out and evangelizing.”
Johnson doesn’t underestimate Williams’ dedication to the cause and has
accepted his consistent presence Friday nights on Highway 61.
“I would really prefer that he go away,” he said. “But it doesn’t
look like that’s going to happen any time soon — and I’m not going away.
So I guess we’ll have to just live with each other.”
Williams, a native of Baton Rouge, said he was born again in 1987 and started
“open-air” preaching shortly after. Speaking publicly and confidently did
not come easily when he started on campus at Louisiana State University.
“Oh, it was terrifying. Before I was born again, in fact, I had a stutter.
I took speech in college. ... Just to get up in front of a class full of people
was terrifying. I really couldn’t sleep the night before a speech class.”
Williams moved to the Woodville area in 1994 to start the Consuming Fire
Fellowship church, which he said now has about 30 members.
“If you turned around and looked down Highway 24, as far as you could see
blindfolded people just aimlessly walking into a pit of fire, you would be
compelled to warn them,” he said. “You might become very passionate, you
might become very direct and those people might become angry, tell you to mind
your own business.”
Though he hopes his message is heard, Williams doesn’t mind if his words or
volume alienate passers-by.
“The first thing to remember is we’re not fueled or compelled by
pragmatism,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is not that it work, but our
ultimate goal is to obey God.
“But that’s not the only way we’re going to communicate truth. Because
ultimately we want people to come and have a discussion. ... That’s what
we’re ultimately after.”
THE PREACHERS AND THE “CRIMINAL”
A strip club patron and admitted
former inmate at Angola state penitentiary seems inebriated as he strikes up a
conversation with the street preachers. Undeterred by a rubbery tongue, the man
claims he is not beyond redemption.
“I confess I know what I’m doing is wrong, and I know what I’m doing is
not pleasing to God. ... I’m weak. I’m not spiritually strong.”
Kennon, growing impatient but eager to help the man, counters: “This is not
a weakness. ... You’re not a victim. You’re a criminal,” he says. “This
is defiant, high-handed rebellion against God. Right now, there is grace
sufficient to deliver you. The blood of Christ could cleanse you instantly.
Unhappy with Kennon’s characterization, the man persists.
“But what if I know what is right, but choose not to practice what is
right?” he says. “Can’t no man give me strength. ... Y’all don’t know
my heart. God knows my heart. He can read hearts.”
in, “I would be a fool to listen to you expound on the Scriptures, because you
don’t have enough truth to set you free from a glorified whorehouse,” he
said. “You know what you’re doing. Do you know that there is not one shred
of righteousness in you? ... You’re a hypocrite. You’re a wicked man. You
have read the Bible and you said you do believe in God, but yet you reject him.
You hate Christ. You are more accountable. You’re going to a hotter hell
because you do know the truth and yet you refuse to submit to him.”
Meanwhile, inside Illusions, music thumps, beer flows and strippers gyrate.
A sign above the doorway to the strippers’ stage reads: “The party’s in
On the front stoop a bouncer watching the street preachers says: “The
beauty of it is: You can come in here, sin all night, then come out and get
LSU REVEILLE -
want unity despite various beliefs
crucial time in spiritual life
By Amanda McElfresh, Staff Writer and
Michael Beagle, Contributing Writer
(excerpt) Britt Williams, pastor of Consuming Fire Fellowship of
Woodville, Miss., knows that his congregation's work may divide students.
Williams is known to many at the University as the "Free Speech Alley
preacher." Students regularly stop to hear his sermons, sometimes arguing
with his method and message. But Williams remains committed to his principles.
"True ministry promotes unity with God, and will likewise often divide
man," Williams said. "We are not unified with anyone that doesn't
believe the Bible."
Williams and his wife Bridget, referred to as "Sister Bridget," are
no strangers to controversy, but he said people have every right to speak out
Many who pass by the preachers in Free Speech Alley often are disturbed when
they see small children alongside their parents, handing out pamphlets and
speaking to students. But Bridget Williams said such worries are
"Our children see that sinful [college students] hate God and the
gospel," she said. "Some people accuse us of brainwashing our
children, but they are exposed to more beliefs than other people."
In general, religion and spirituality have a strong presence in many
University students' lives. Although some campus groups are working to develop
more cooperation among organizations, religion remains a personal issue unique
to the individual.
LSU REVEILLE -
group preaches 'the truth'
by Amy Brittain
WOODVILLE, Miss. - The veins bulge from his neck. Blood
rushes to his face as he stomps his foot and passionately shakes his fist.
Fiery, bellowing words engulf the gathered crowd of students listening yet often
But the Rev. Charlie Kennon, 36, children's pastor of the Consuming Fire
Fellowship, says he preaches with love every other Tuesday in Free Speech Plaza.
"People misunderstand us," Kennon said. "They think we're
To find the roots of the Consuming Fire Fellowship, one must travel the winding
Main Street in rural Woodville, Miss. - population approximately 1,200. The
congregation of 60 members, formed in the mid-1990s at the home of the Rev.
Britt Williams, is based on the Hebrews' biblical passage, "For our God is
a consuming fire."
In a world of behavior restrictions, dedicated prayer and defined gender roles,
they say their love for God guides the way?
It's 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17. Nearly an hour and a half
north of Baton Rouge, the Consuming Fire Fellowship gathers not in a church with
a steeple but, rather, a modest office space within a small Main Street strip
The place of worship is marked with only a small red sign that reads
"Consuming Fire Fellowship" hanging above the covered walkway.
The children's service will begin promptly at 9:30 a.m., but for now, the adult
congregation members roam the room reciting soft prayers.
Whispers of "Help me Jesus" and "Praise God" fill the mostly
barren room with metal folding chairs and a traditional pulpit.
While their parents pray, most of the children sit quietly in their chairs.
Families, particularly the mothers and children, tend to wear matching clothing.
Soft floral patterns and pastel colors are popular choices within the
Kennon approaches the pulpit and begins his children's sermon. Today's discourse
is based on Jonathan Edwards' famous "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry
"This morning, I want to speak about children in the hands of an angry
God," Kennon says. "Just because you are young, you are no exception
to the wrath and the judgment of God."
There's no singing of "Jesus Loves Me" or holding of hands. Kennon
preaches that once past the age of accountability, children are as responsible
for their actions as adults. Congregation members, especially children, are
discouraged from watching TV, having premarital sex, drinking alcohol or
indulging in any fantasies.
He doesn't tone down his aggressiveness for the young crowd that consists mainly
of toddlers and elementary-age children, although a few infants and teenagers
are scattered amid the rows.
Kennon says the children will face an "awful doom" if they
"refuse to surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ." Unlike the common
image of fidgety children during church services, the children of the Consuming
Fire Fellowship sit stone-still. They meet his words with stoic faces, rarely
reacting to his raised voice or pumping fist.
After a 30-minute children's message, the congregation briefly breaks before the
main sermon. Some children reach beneath their seats and roll out sleeping mats
- in anticipation of a lengthy service.
Williams, 45, leads a brief musical worship before his sermon. As a University
student in the 1980s, Williams battled drug addictions before having a
"born-again" Christian experience, he said. He then began preaching
with his wife in Free Speech Plaza.
There are no hymnals for Williams' congregation members because they have
memorized the words to the lively, clap-inducing songs. One church member
feverishly runs three laps around the room in a celebratory fashion.
Williams then begins his 90-minute sermon that is a mix of Biblical verses,
comments about mainstream Christian churches and a woman's role in the
congregation. The service concludes with "laying of the hands" to
"heal" congregation members.
In the Consuming Fire Fellowship's summer newsletter, Kennon authored an article
about the nature of fatherhood. Kennon writes that "most men today are
effeminate, passive and visionless."
According to his article, the decline of masculinity is rooted in "the
demonic philosophy of feminism" that has "shamefully given place to
women in the military, board room and even the pulpit."
Williams said women should only pursue domestic roles, unless they are single
and must provide for themselves. Women are also urged to dress conservatively,
covering most of their bodies with loose dresses. Pants are not allowed, as they
display a woman's curvaceous figure.
"Culture is wrong," Williams said. "The Bible is right."
Williams said his congregation is often labeled as "narrow-minded" and
"Bible-thumping," but they live strictly based on the Bible's
principles. He says women and men are "equal" but have different
"It's a shame that America would even consider, say, Hillary Clinton being
a president. It's pitiful," Williams said. "The culture should blush
that it's that blind and that stupid. She's a woman. She has no business
Becky Gaharan, 33, joined the Consuming Fire Fellowship six years ago. As a
divorced mother of three, Gaharan cleans homes and works with her teenage son's
"God led me here," Gaharan said.
Gaharan was raised as a mainstream Christian. So when she decided to join the
Consuming Fire Fellowship, her family and friends expressed concern and even
labeled it a cult, she said.
"I was on the way to hell," Gaharan said. "But now me and my
children aren't on our way to hell. They're going to hear the truth."
Gaharan said it's often difficult for secular or career-oriented women to
understand women playing a submissive role in family life.
"It's often seen as bottom of the barrel," Gaharan said. "But
it's a glorious cause."
Grace Williams, 8-year-old daughter of Britt Williams, said she likes
"everything" about the Consuming Fire Fellowship. Grace's mother,
Bridget Williams, 37, home schools Grace and her eight siblings.
Britt Williams said the church promotes home schooling so children can receive a
full and proper education.
"You wouldn't subject your children to [outside schools] if you believe it
to be dangerous," Britt Williams said. "The Bible says that beginning
of wisdom and understanding is the fear of God. And they've removed God from the
Grace Williams said English is her favorite subject, and she wants to be a
"Christian and a keeper at home" when she grows up. Being a home
keeper means "to stay home and not go to work and cook for my husband and
to home school," Grace Williams said.
In addition to schooling, Grace Williams helps her mother tend to her youngest
siblings and cook meals during the day.
On this Sunday, the congregation has gathered for lunch at a member's home.
Gallons of spaghetti sauce are needed to feed the tables of children and
parents. Britt Williams said although most families in the church do have many
children, the church does not take a stance on birth control.
Grace Williams describes her large family as "fun" and plans to have
as many children "as God wants [her] to have."
Micah Williams, 15, is the oldest child in the Williams family. He first
appeared in Free Speech Plaza as a 6-week-old baby.
"I love it. I've done it all my life. I came out there as soon as I was
born," Micah Williams said. "It's normal to me."
Bridget Williams said her children enjoy going to Free Speech Plaza to pass out
"We're accused of brainwashing our children and not letting them think for
themselves," Bridget Williams said. "But that's so contrary to the
The children are not scared any "more than MTV can scare them,"
Bridget Williams said.
"Are they concerned about our children? Truly?" Bridget Williams
questioned. "I would venture to guess almost 50 percent if not more of
those women kill their babies in their wombs, or at least agree that it's OK.
They don't care about my children. They support abortion."
Micah Williams said his general impression is that "most people" don't
like his congregation because they preach Biblical truth.
"It is the truth," he said. "It's the outright truth. LSU is
probably where I get the most questions."
Micah Williams said people often asked if he is embarrassed when he appears in
public dressed in the same apparel as his siblings. But he said he's never known
another life, so he considers his family life to be normal.
FREE SPEECH PLAZA
When the Consuming Fire Fellowship arrived Tuesday, members congregated at the
War Memorial on the Parade Ground to organize before moving to Free Speech
Plaza. Unlike usual Tuesday demonstrations, Consuming Fire Fellowship members
were approached this week by LSU Police.
According to Maj. Lawrence Rabalais, LSUPD spokesman, they were mistaken for
abortion protesters and reported. An officer was dispatched to the scene and
spoke with the Consuming Fire Fellowship.
Because of the incident, the Consuming Fire Fellowship was referred to Lyn
Taylor, a coordinator in Finance and Administrative Services, for registration.
According to Taylor, all off-campus groups are encouraged to register and the
purpose of registration is not to restrict the group.
"The registration is just so that we will know who the groups are that are
on campus," she said.
Britt Williams said Consuming Fire Fellowship members have been arrested
"many times" for public preaching. But he said the Tuesday incident
was a rare occurrence.
"In nearly 20 years of public evangelism at LSU we have rarely had
difficulty with the authorities," Britt Williams said.
But he said campus police later told him that scripture banners could no longer
be used because "the interior poles used for support could double as
Britt Williams said the congregation's University future will be "bannerless."
"I certainly hope these things are not a sign revealing a different tone
regarding our ministry by the University," Britt Williams said. "We
When Kennon preaches atop the raised walkway in Free Speech Plaza, he compares
his actions to a father saving his child from a burning house.
Kennon said his facial expressions and actions may seem harsh, but if one
observed a man trying to save a burning child, he would have the same
expression. He said his actions are an attempt to save the lives of University
"If someone doesn't realize they're lost, they'll never seek a
savior," Kennon said. "Men are having to see themselves as they are in
the light of the Gospel."
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