'Pit Preacher' Banned From UNC-Chapel Hill
Posted March 9, 2007
Chapel Hill, N.C. — A reverend known for his fire-and-brimstone approach to sharing the gospel was cited this week for trespassing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and banned from the campus for two years.
Campus police officers issued the citation Thursday morning after getting a complaint that the Rev. Gary Birdsong, got too close to designated space reserved in "The Pit" by a UNC outdoor recreation group called Carolina Adventures
The Pit, a sunken courtyard that sits between UNC-Chapel Hill's main dining hall, student bookstore and student union, is a popular gathering place for students and a site for speeches, performances, demonstrations and other gatherings.
University police said Birdsong's message drowned out another message being presented by the other group.
UNC Public Safety spokesman Randy Young said they cited Birdsong because he refused to follow the rules.
"We gave him an opportunity of moving down to another area in The Pit or being (removed) from campus," Young said. "He chose the latter."
WRAL tried but was unable to reach Birdsong for comment, but published reports said he planned to appeal the citation.
Known by many at UNC-Chapel Hill as "The Pit Preacher," Birdsong has also preached at other campuses across the state, including North Carolina State University, East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
He has made The Pit at a pulpit for the past 20 years.
"He stands over there in the far corner by the library," senior Teresa Lee said. "He's charming, but he knows how to push buttons for sure"
"Even if I'm on the other side of The Pit -- you can easily hear him," junior Andrew Busscher said. "He's a pretty prominent figure on campus."
Birdsong's views on the Bible and social issues, such as abortion, evolution and homosexuality, are seen by some as controversial, resulting in heated debates between him and students.
"I think it's a favorite with incoming freshmen to sit down and try to argue with him," Lee said. "Then, you learn it's not the arguing, it's getting the ideas out there."
Many students on campus Friday said they hope Birdsong does return and that the campus will be quiet without him.
"It was entertaining," sophomore Bryce Jenkins said. "It was like the circus was in town. It really was."