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'Pit Preacher' Banned From UNC-Chapel Hill

Posted March 9, 2007

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— 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."

12 Comments

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  • BubbaDuke Mar 12, 9:52 a.m.

    I don't know that street preaching is an effective way to turn people onto Christianity, especially if it's fire-and-brimstone. Jesus' own example was to build relationships and to meet the needs of the people who came to you. He didn't need to search them out because He lived what He preached.

    I saw a church sign that says "Jesus Saves". That's the truth, but it's a worthless truth. Does Jesus save Christians from divorce, from sickness, from bankruptcy or any of the things that nonbelievers go through? People see the way we live and don't really see that we're any better or better off than they are. Christians have got to follow the example of Jesus instead of the example of the religious leaders. Once people know we really care about what they're going through, when they see us put our time and money where our mouths are, then they'll trust us for the eternal things. Street preaching doesn't require any real commitment to those same people Jesus wants to reach.

  • Mrs. Fabulous Mar 12, 9:18 a.m.

    This country is so backwards. That's why the US is the way it is. I saw another poster post this and I'm going to say it again. The country is forcing people to accept gays but want to shun bible believers. I often wonder what the faces of the people will be like when Jesus does come back and all that the religious folk were saying is found to be true! I often wonder about the agony that will accompanied that day. There will be no words for the emotions of non-believers.

  • sasuke Mar 12, 8:34 a.m.

    he's entertaining. people should be able to lighten up and have fun with it. argue if you want, but have fun with it. i go to state and i've seen the guy an stood an listened to him a bit. i think it's a load of crap that he says, but he does know how to push buttons and he gets people riled up, its entertaining. let him back on campus!

  • d1_standing Mar 12, 6:54 a.m.

    Gary does give preachers and Christianity a bad name, but he is so entertaining.

  • Tarheeljunior Mar 11, 9:59 p.m.

    Gary gives preachers and Christianity a bad reputation for his verbal attacks on students. He doesn't embody the spirit of the faith he is trying to spread. He has a right to free speech, and students at UNC for the most part know how to handle him. If he is really trying to save souls, I suggest he change his approach. You catch more flies with honey. Scare tactics don't work on hard headed youth.

  • katgoesloco Mar 11, 7:54 p.m.

    Gary Birdsong says I'm going to hell, so obviously I don't agree with what he has to say. However, I totally support his right to speak freely, no matter what he says. In this case, it looks like he interfered with another group's right of free speech. Maybe it was a misunderstanding.

    I think that Birdsong should be allowed back on campus. As hateful as he is, he has a right to speak in public.

  • Huey Mar 11, 5:39 p.m.

    Get real! This was only about the man not abiding by the rules
    and moving down the pit a bit do he didn't shout out another party. Had nothing to do with religion or politics. He has been
    doing his thing there for years, nobody ever stopped him. So stop
    making this into something it an't.

  • independent_thinker Mar 10, 9:15 p.m.

    No Quarter: It must be exhausting and incredibly limiting to check with Rush, Coulter, and O'Reilly everyday to be sure of all the groups to hate and ideas to fear.

    History lesson: extreme right wingers have always been afraid of the new: immigrants, ideas, theories, science, and trends. At some point, someone feared or hated your anscestors; you're just returning the favor. The beauty of being human is that we're possessed of free will; exercise it.

    Funny thing --while everyone "talks the talk", Republican business leaders are dreaming up new ways to market and sell products and services to the same illegal aliens you hate [yeah, B of A]. Ironic, isn't it?

    What's it called when you continue climbing a ladder that's leaning on the wrong wall?

  • Punky Mar 10, 6:49 p.m.

    It's about time he was banned from there, they should have done it permanently. Yes there is such thing as freedom of speech, but when you point at people and say they are going to hell is pushing the limits. That man is obnoxious, judgemental and does absolutely nothing for the good of humanity. Good riddens to him.

  • No Quarter Mar 10, 6:33 p.m.

    Liberal morons? Surely you jest.

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