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News Church, protesters clash at Shoemaker Square

Church, protesters clash at Shoemaker Square

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“Warning to all liars, fornicators, homosexuals, thieves, idolaters, blasphemers, money lovers, adulterers, hypocrites, drunkards – You will be cast into the lake of fire – Rev. 21:8, Gal. 5:19-21, 1 Cor. 6:9-10,” read the sign of the Church of Jackson.

On Sept. 29 the Church of Jackson stood in Shoemaker Square on The University of Southern Mississippi’s campus, bearing signs of aborted fetuses and quotes from scripture.

The Church of Jackson’s pastor Saint Austin said he chose to visit Southern Miss’s campus because it was on their list for that day.

“We preach at other campuses as well,” Austin said. “We preach at Mississippi College, Jackson State University – some of the brothers have been to Mississippi State – and we’ve been to Ole Miss. We are planning a trip to Georgia State next week.”

Austin said he and other church members were on campus to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“We use abortion because it’s the most grievous sin in our society,” Austin said. “As much as it grieves God that there is adultery, fornication and homosexuals and all those things, this is the shedding of human blood. This is the shedding of innocent blood. In Mississippi – in our town – is the last abortion clinic. We seek to abolish abortion through the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

At the same time, Advocacy for Civility Change Equality Safety and Social Justice (ACCESS), a student-run social justice group for resident assistants, scheduled a ‘Free Hugs’ event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with no knowledge that the church would be at Shoemaker Square at the same time.

Broadcast journalism major Ebonee Jackson said ACCESS is all about promoting social justice and peaceful avenues.

“This was [ACCESS’s] first event for the year,” Jackson said. “We were just putting our feet in the water. We try to advocate for social justice. With all of the controversial things that are not only going on in the world, but the different beliefs that people have, there is always some animosity. There is always some anger and hurt feelings at the end of the day.”

Jackson said the group did not come there to promote religion but to promote love and peace.

“This is the beginning, and we had no idea how big this would be,” Jackson said. “We didn’t have any idea that another group would be on the other side of the fountain doing something completely different. We had no idea when we planned this. I feel that [our group] will grow.”

Sophomore biochemistry major Temp Weaver said he is personally a Buddhist but has read most of the major religious texts.

“There is some beauty in the Christian message, but I don’t think It’s being represented here,” Weaver said. “It’s hypocritical. [The Church of Jackson] says that abortion is a sin, and we should disallow abortion. But to claim that abortion is murder and to propose a solution that further overcrowds our foster care system, and to say that isn’t murder, that makes them moral relativists.”

Weaver said such a solution is abject hypocrisy.

“I wish they would realize it, but they are never going to,” Weaver said. “They are telling me I’m rationalizing myself into hell. The book of Isaiah says we should take up take up the cause of the fatherless and plead the widow’s case. Their message is based on oppression. Jesus was abjectly against oppression.”

Weaver said there is a motif throughout the gospel of “bringing low the hills to raise up the valleys.”

“It’s not talking about literally changing geographical landmarks,” Weaver said. “That’s talking about the raising of humans from suffering and oppression. If what they are preaching is oppression – if what they are preaching exacerbates the death of children outside of the womb if not inside of the womb, it’s actively going against the teachings of Christ.”


The hand of Brother Keith holds a bible while he preaches to the students of USM on Sept. 29, 2016 at Shoemaker Square
The hand of Brother Keith holds a bible while he preaches to the students of USM on Sept. 29, 2016 at Shoemaker Square. A student holds a sign behind him in protest.

Edit Sept. 30: The acronym for ACCESS is the ‘Advocacy for Civility Change Equality Safety and Social Justice’ and was not mentioned at time of publication on Sept. 29. 

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