A sign the size of a banner that can be found in the end zone at Raymond James Stadium was strapped on Jeremiah Baldwin’s back, attached to a pole as tall as a traffic light.
The sign sent a simple message to about 60 people outside the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Monday: “You make me sick,” it read.
As Baldwin referred to the crowd as “a bunch of heathens and wimpy Christians,” he said USF students are not the first to disagree with his comments about God.
Since 1964, Baldwin said he has made similar appearances at universities across the United States to preach to students about God.
“I like going to campuses because it’s probably the best place in our society where people have an open mind,” Baldwin said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been to USF.”
And Baldwin isn’t the only preacher who has stirred up the student body at USF. In the past, preachers – such as charismatic Jed Smock and his family – have used the lawn in front of Cooper Hall to challenge students’ religious beliefs.
University Police officers have often responded to preachers speaking on campus, usually to monitor the situation. Until there is a disruption to the university’s academic environment, UP officer Michael Rapp said the preachers have the right to speak on campus.
“We’re just here to make sure nobody runs up and decks this guy,” Rapp said. “If university operations are disrupted, then we need to step in and settle that.”
Lt. Donna Rodgers said UP wasn’t notified before Baldwin appeared on campus, however he wasn’t required to tell police before he arrived.
“We’ve had many preachers out here before,” Rodgers said. “We just need to monitor the situation.”
But this time as preaching took place away from classroom buildings and near the Martin Luther King Plaza, students weren’t the only ones who had to listen to Baldwin’s comments.
Bryan Whipple said he was visiting the campus with a friend for the day when he noticed Baldwin’s sign. Whipple said he could not help but voice his opinion against Baldwin’s comments about homosexuals.
Baldwin referred to homosexuals as child molesters, who were listed on his sign of people who Baldwin said are not “true Christians.”
“You are all a little slow, and you’re hypocrites,” Baldwin said.
“I think this man is totally deluded, he uses incredible stereotypes and has been harassing students,” Whipple said. “He’s definitely a disruption to this campus.”
Rapp said although the volume of Baldwin’s opinions may be hard for some to ignore, students are not obliged to speak with him.
“If they want to interact with him, that’s their business, but they could just let him stand out here and talk to the trees,” Rapp said.
Baldwin, who said he is Christian but not Roman Catholic, pulled a Bible from a waist pack on several occasions to quote verses to students. Baldwin said the purpose of his visit to campus was not to change students’ beliefs.
“Am I trying to convert them? Please look at what I have to deal with; they make me sick,” Baldwin said. “I’m preaching about the true and living God.”
But sophomore Briana Preast said Baldwin’s words were anything but true.
“I believe in the Bible, but I don’t believe anything he’s saying has any worth,” Preast said.