From the Montana Kaimin, April 5, 2000

Gay rights rally attracts voisterous opponents

Courtney Lowery
Montana Kaimin

With their bibles in hand, members of the traveling Baptist ministry group, Swat Team For Christ, raised their voices in front of UM students Tuesday morning outside the University Center.

In Campus Newspaper Junichi Kuzuoka/Kaimin

Gerald Sutek, international public minister for Swat Team for Christ, speaks to a UM crowd about Christian religioius beliefs Tuesday at noon near the UC.

Across the library mall, the Lambda Alliance was setting up microphones and speakers for their Gay Pride rally and speak-out, all while the Big Wu was tuning guitars for their promotional performance following the rally.

Pandemonium struck.

Some students listened to the preaching, some brushed away members of the Swat team when they offered Christian pamphlets titled, “Gay Blade,” or “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation.” Some students chuckled, or heckled, and Lambda Chair Susan Eavenson was feeling a bit uneasy.

“It makes me nervous. I don’t understand why people think they need to come out here and have their show,” Eavenson said. “This is our day, they know that. They can have their free speech all they want, but I just hope they clear out before it is our turn.”

And they did clear out.

After a rendition of Amazing Grace, the Baptist group collapsed signs and banners and strolled off UM campus.

“It is a black and white issue and I like my side,” said Swat Team for Christ’s leader, Gerald Sutek. “I’d rather be clean than dirty. I’d rather be free of guilt than be guilty and that is what we are offering these people today.”

Sutek, who travels cross country with his family in a mobile home, said the approximate 20-member Swat Team was in Missoula for a preacher’s convention when they heard of the rally. They made the decision to come to campus to “help save the young people.” 

“The Bible says that for all sins come the glory of God, and it says that sodomy is no exception,” Sutek said. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as thou would with womankind. We aren’t here to pick on the sodomites, but they are here in the crowd. Everybody is a sinner, but we have been granted salvation and now we are offering salvation to other sinners.”

John Engels, the director of University Christian Fellowship, said although he didn’t see the Swat Team, he didn’t think condemning, name-calling preaching was ever successful on a college campus. Although the Swat Team didn’t claim to be advocating hate or condemnation, their message may have been ignored because of the way they delivered it.

“It is an academic community,” Engels said. “(overzealous name-calling preaching) might work somewhere, but it doesn’t work on campus. When we have functions on campus, we always try to let the people know that it is a message of love. If it is done with dignity and love, it has a greater ability to reach people.”

Susan Smith of Bigfork, who joined the Swat Team’s efforts when she met them at the convention, said her intent in coming to campus was to offer love and support to homosexuals.

“We wanted to witness to these gay pride people that God loves them,” Smith said. “We are not here to condemn their lifestyle, but we are to let them know that God wants every sinner to come and be saved.”

Sophomore Rebecca Preciado reflected the view of many when she said she doesn’t need to be saved, and she didn’t appreciate being condemned for her beliefs.

“Some guy told me I was stupid for my thoughts, and the way I look at it is that I didn’t call them stupid,” she said. “I don’t agree with them, but I didn’t call them stupid. Who are they to tell me where my soul resides? I’m a good person and I know I’m not going to hell.“

And Preciado said she didn’t think the university was a place for the group to practice free speech.

“I don’t go knocking on their doors at eight in the morning trying to get them to smoke pot or drink a beer or, God forbid, have anal sex, and I don’t appreciate them coming to my door, or to my school where I’m trying to study,” she said.

Senior Justin Gaines, who is a Christian, said he accepted the group’s presence on campus as a vehicle to display both sides of the issue.

“Most people are going to believe what they are going to believe anyway, they aren’t preaching hate or anything, they are just out there speaking what the Bible says,” Gaines said. “People come out here to hear the gay rights rally; they should get both sides of the spectrum.”

And senior Nathan King, although he said he is not in agreement with the group’s ideals, did agree with Gaines on grounds of free speech.

“They have a right to be here I guess,” King said. “We are here to promote diversity.”