Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A pastor who was threatened with arrest for handing out Gospel literature on the campus of a Minnesota college will be allowed to return to campus after WND asked the school for a comment on the dispute.
Pastor John Chisham, a campus leader for Change Collegian Network, told WND he had been ticketed for handing out Gospel tracts and business cards and issued a “trespass order” telling him to stay off the campus of school.
Officials at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minn., were contacted by WND for comment, and university security official Michael Munford declined to speak about the issue. Another official, Bill Molso, told WND there was no conflict, insisting the pastor was just issued a citation for violating a policy on “advertising.” He also said Chisham was not banned from campus.
Munford reached out to Chisham within just a few minutes of WND’s inquiry, and the pastor then reported that Munford “has agreed to allow the pastor and a co-leader back on campus with the stipulation that [his group] will not hand out any material that has not been approved.”
He continued, “When material is approved, CCNSMSU will be given a time, place, and location where the ministry is allowed to hand out the material. CCNSMSU will be free, according to the verbal agreement, to return to campus and have open and free discussions with any student willing to participate.
“This is not the ideal solution we were searching for, which is the free distribution without restriction of Gospel literature,” Chisham said. “But it does get us back on the campus immediately. We are praying for more student leadership and involvement so that they can take up the mantle and evangelize their campus freely.”
The controversy had erupted over visits by Chisham, a campus leader for Change Collegian Network, to the state school.
He told WND he’s been visiting there, talking with students, giving them tracts or business cards if they want and holding Bible studies for several years.
Then just in the last week a complaint apparently was filed with campus officials, Chisham said, with the result that his tracts and business cards were banned as “advertising,” and he was ordered to stay away from campus.
Chisham had promised he would continue visiting campus and handing out tracts anyway.
“I must obey God rather than men,” the pastor said. “It is clear that we are making an impact on the lives of students so Satan is sitting up to take notice.”
Chisham told WND the university earlier had offered to allow him back on campus after a semester if he promised to stop handing out tracts or business cards. He said he’ll follow any application process needed to hand out tracts, but he was not willing to be banished from campus for his message.
He said this week was the first time in his years of visiting that he’s been told an application is required by the college to hand out a Gospel tract. He noted the college informed him by calling police and having him escorted from the campus.
“I think our speech is singled out as offensive,” he said. “I think that’s what the Scriptures have told us would happen.”
Ultimately the professor, James Dimock, traveled with a group of “gay” students to disrupt the pastor’s services in River of Life Alliance Church in Marshall.
It was in 2010 when a dozen students marched into Chisham’s church service and stood silently in front of the congregation. They held up signs that blocked the congregation’s view of Chisham as he preached.
Dimock said at the time the protest was prompted by the pastor’s visit to the Mankato campus. Under the moniker “John T. Baptist,” Chisham preached in the open air at Mankato and other universities in Minnesota and South Dakota.
“The few minutes I spent shouting my opinion loud
enough to overwhelm him doesn’t nullify the time he spends speaking. He gets
ample time to have his say,” Dimock told WND at the time.
In return, Chisham admits he invited the protesters to his church, although he wasn’t expecting them to carry their messages on signs in front of the congregation.
“We invited them to come in and participate in the service,” Chisham told WND. “They interpreted that as saying they can walk into the service and block it with signs.”
He said the signs “were all about these bullied homosexual young people who’ve committed suicide.”
As a consequence of the invasion of the worship service by students and a professor, Chisham’s small church congregation was ejected from its rented space at the Marshall Area YMCA.
He told WND the church is renting another facility.