A Christian minister who believes he should follow the biblical mandate to “go and tell” the Gospel message is outraged that officials at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall called local police to threaten him with a citation for trespass.
Marshall police spokesman Robert Yant told WND that there were no charges filed against the pastor, John Chisham. The pastor’s story appears on a website connected to the River of Life Alliance Church. It outlines the latest dispute he’s had over speech rights on campus.
Chisham said he and another “campus minister,” Jake Larson, were “proclaiming the gospel in the open air on the SMSU campus prior to their weekly meeting of Change Collegian Network.”
“At no time did anyone on the campus – students, faculty, or security – approach the preachers to object to their practice of free speech,” the report explains. “That is until Capt. Brian Ehlenbach approached the preachers with two uniformed Marshall police officers and sarcastically asked John Chisham, a taxpaying citizen of the United States of America and the state of Minnesota, both of which funds (sic) this public university, ‘Are you ready to leave now?’”
WND messages left with university officials did not generate a response.
Yant said that Chisham left, so he was not cited with trespass as the school alleges.
“At no time were the officers able or willing to give a reason for the removal other than ‘they do not want you here,’” Chisham’s report said. “Chisham repeatedly asked Capt. Ehlenbach and the officers what law he was breaking, or what policy he was transgressing on the campus. The officers and Capt. Ehlenbach were unable or refused to answer.”
Yant also told WND he was unaware of any campus speech restriction policy that the university made available to the public.
“What it all comes down to is this: Southwest Minnesota State University has no legal reason to have these preachers forcibly removed from their campus. Southwest Minnesota State University has demonstrated time and again a bias and prejudice against Christians practicing their deeply held religious beliefs on their campus. There is no clear policy forbidding this practice of free speech on their campus, but the campus security and the provost’s office has (sic) used policies concerning solicitation to silence free speech and deeply held religious beliefs,” Chisham’s report said.
“Then they use the Marshall police department to participate in this conspiracy to silence free speech and the practice of deeply held religious beliefs by telling them ‘we do not want them here any more.’”
On his website, Chisham asked readers to contact school officials to express their thoughts on the incident.
Yant said the school previously had set speech restrictions for Chisham, and he “wasn’t abiding by those,” so he was threatened with a trespass citation.
It was just weeks earlier when Chisham was threatened with arrest for handing out Gospel literature on the campus. But he later was allowed to return after WND asked the school for comment on the dispute.
At that time, Chisham said he was ticketed for handing out Gospel tracts and business cards and issued a “trespass order” telling him to stay off the campus.
School security official Michael Munford declined to speak about the issue at that time. Another official, Bill Molso, told WND there was no conflict, insisting the pastor was only issued a citation for violating a policy on “advertising.” He also insisted 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 had “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,” according to Chisham.
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.
Chisham has told WND he’s been visiting the campus, talking with students, giving them tracts or business cards if they want and holding Bible studies for several years.
Then, suddenly, school officials objected, calling his tracts “advertising.”
WND previously reported when Chisham visited the nearby campus of Mankato State University in Mankato, and a college professor came out and shouted him down.
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.