On Tuesday October 15th, a group of more than 75 students gathered around two men in the central courtyard of Bellevue College. The men carried signs that read “repent” and “fear him who has the power to cast you into hell,” and read excerpts from the old testament.
Mathew Meniecke and Brother Ron were from the Gospel Invasion Ministries, a global evangelist organization that conducts sermons, like the one at Bellevue college, all across the United States as well as South Korea, and Ukraine. Meniecke described their mission, to “tell souls about christ, [and] how to get saved.” but distanced his group from other evangelist organizations. “People may criticize our methods,” he told the watchdog, “we’re not here just to give people a bunch of candy and tell them God loves them. In order to be saved you must come to christ…if you reject him, you will burn in the fires of hell”
This more aggressive message recieved a more aggressive response. As the two men read from the story of Sodom and Gamora, a crowd gathered filling the courtyard and the walkways above. Some listened, some laughed and jeered, and a few took other approaches.
“Everyone started gathering around and I even saw two girls kissing each other in front of them,” said Bellevue college student Yumi Kerametlian “It was so outrageous, I loved it.”
On two occasions Bellevue Police had to intervene, once after students were throwing change at the men, and again after a student, who wishes to remain anonymous, attempted to take the sign from the two.. He told the Watchdog, “I did it because they’re telling me that god is a [messed] up being and he wants to wipe us away. I feel like they are threatening me, i feel like they are telling me my life is nothing.”
This event was protected by section 132H-142 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). State law declares Bellevue College a “free speech zone.” The area in front of C building is set aside for “Non-College Groups” to hold events protected by the first amendment. This includes religious speech, but there was a feeling on campus that what the men were preaching was hateful. Carolina Ortiz said “students shouldn’t have to listen to that as they walk to class.”
This feeling resonated with much of the student body. One student made their own sign reading “I love my trans body” to counter the message of the speakers. Bellevue college administrators lowered a banner with the pride flag and the words “All are Welcome” from the balcony of B building.
Brother Ron, said “The uproar at Bellevue was definitely more intense than we expected but we know for certain the Word went out and will not return void, it accomplish what the Lord intended it to do.”
Brother Ron and Meniecke declined to press charges against any students. After about 2 hours, the two men mere escorted off campus, followed by a crowd of students.