Many ears were to suffer a great deal further that day as the result of the mouth of Brother Micah Armstrong, a member of Revival Open Air Mission USA (roam-usa.org), an evangelical Christian group that "calls all men everywhere to repentance from sin."
Armstrong and his troupe of open-air preachers travel to campus bastions of iniquity across the nation, with doomsday warnings to college students about sex, drugs and the bullet train to hell they are all riding.
During the group's four-day protest against sin at UC, Armstrong and his brethren proclaimed a litany of interesting epithets: Jews, Muslims, the sexually active and homosexuals are all hell-bound; all those who masturbate are "confused homosexuals;" and a multitude of religious and political figures, including Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Mother Teresa, have been cast into the brutal fire as well.
From his pulpit in the university's centrally located "free speech zone" on McMicken Commons, Armstrong lamented how women of today have "strayed from their natural uses." He singled out female students with large breasts and women wearing what he considered "revealing clothing" and dubbed them "whores," among other disparaging remarks.
Women are just "asking for it" when it comes to rape, according to Armstrong. They should "dress more modestly" and "close their legs," lending to the assumption that victims cause their own victimization.
Armstrong deftly dodges insults and logic, hurled like rotten pears, with aplomb. He's had enough experience to know how to deluge the cries of hecklers.
But not all respond with wry wit. Earlier this year a 6-foot-2, 225-pound flanker for the University of South Florida rugby team reportedly choked Armstrong after he insulted the student's girlfriend by calling her a "whore" and "loose sorority slut."
There were no incidents of violence during Armstrong's visit to UC, according to Eugene Ferrara, director of the Office Public Safety.
As a state-funded institution, UC is constitutionally mandated to provide a forum for the exercise of freedom of speech, according to Louis Sirkin, a Cincinnati-based First Amendment attorney. With that obligation also comes the responsibility to provide equal access to that forum, he says.
But when a group of Mormon students inside the Tangeman Center tried to counter Armstrong's caustic criticisms, campus police ordered them to stop, citing their lack of a permit.
"They should have equal access and have the right to be able to counter (the preachers), as long as it doesn't get disruptive," Sirkin says. "How do you get the public debate if you don't allow the counter speech to be done at the same time?"
But speaking activities are not allowed to run concurrently under UC's Use of Facilities manual, which provides regulations pertaining to speakers on campus. One at a time, please. The rules require speakers and groups who wish to demonstrate, picket or rally to give the university five days' advance notice.
At first reading, the university's regulations seem to allow for a spectrum of voices and dissent -- unless you consider that hardly anyone on campus, students and faculty alike, knew of Armstrong's scheduled appearances. Neither he nor his companions were listed on Campus Calendar for any of the four days the group appeared.
When UC's College Republicans hosted Chris Simcox of the controversial Minutemen Civil Defense Corps in May, students knew weeks in advance of his impending visit. Both the College Democrats and the university chapter of the International Socialist Organization were able to follow procedure and protested the event.
UC doesn't advertise for speakers it doesn't sponsor, Ferrara says. But all campus speakers are listed on the Campus Calendar, available online, he said.
"The calendar is the notice," Ferrara says.
The onus is on students, many of whom are unaware that the university has a Campus Calendar (onestop.uc.edu), to check for upcoming speakers, Ferrara says.
If students aren't comfortable being singled out and demeaned by religious speakers, they can walk elsewhere.
"You don't have to walk across McMicken Commons," Ferrara says.
However, because Armstrong's appearance wasn't listed on Campus Calendar, by the time students wishing to counter the demonstration or protest the event could have finished the university's five-day waiting period, Armstrong and his entourage were already gone.
"The University of Cincinnati allows the fundamentalist preachers to speak on our campus because it is consistent with our mission of exposing all sides of issues and because it is legally required of us as a public forum," Ferrara says. ©