Visiting preacher denounces homosexuality, various religions
Students passing through the area behind the University Center and the M.D. Anderson Library on their way to classes or lunch Monday got an earful from a preacher who spoke of homosexuality, organized religion and listening to popular music as sinful acts.
While most students walked by preacher Michael Venyah, some debated him on what they considered a message of intolerance.
"Is this a joke?" finance sophomore Kat Denson said when she passed by the area where Venyah preached.
Denson said she was offended by Venyah’s message because it was insulting to students of different religious backgrounds and lifestyles.
Students passing by either ignored or directed epithets toward Venyah, a minister with Soulwinners Ministries International.
Venyah, who has been touring universities nationwide since 2004, recently visited Texas Southern University, Venyah’s wife, who declined to give her name, said. Venyah tours 10 months annually, she said.
At about noon, Venyah was told by UH police officer Ray Raulerson and Sgt. Jon Williams to put away a sign because it violated University policy for free expression. Individuals or groups not affiliated with the University are not allowed to post signs unless previously approved by the University Center Reservations Office, according to the UH Manual of Administrative Policies and Procedures.
"A billboard or placard displayed for the purpose of promoting events or activities or to convey a message or information of any type (is not allowed)," according to the manual.
Despite taking down the sign, students said Venyah’s spoken message was offensive. Political science junior Joshua Evans said that though he disagreed with his preaching, he did not think Venyah should be censored or silenced.
"As much as I hate his message, it goes against the First Amendment," Evans said.
Assistant Dean of Students Bianca Springer said she alerted UHPD to Venyah’s preaching after two students arrived at the Dean of Students Office to complain.
Springer said that UHPD was called to make sure Venyah was not violating free expression policies.
"UHPD (was made) aware to make sure (the) group is in compliance," she said.
While Venyah’s presence upset some students, others said his message shouldn’t be taken seriously. Denson, who said she thought Venyah was joking at first, said religious tolerance was a better way to address social and religious differences.
"It (shouldn’t) even matter what religion you are," Denson said.