Preliminary charges revealed in 'Sexual by Design' disruption
By Hannah Smith
Charges were released by the IU Police Department in regard to protestor Sebastian Modes disrupting Doug Wilson's "Sexual by Design" presentation. Modes is facing preliminary charges of disorderly conduct.
As many people showed up to protest Doug Wilson’s talk as those who had come to listen. In the front half of the room, people sat facing forward, quietly waiting for him to speak. In the back half, people stood with signs and rainbow flags, ready to protest what he would be saying.
Wilson is the evangelical pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. He was brought to IU by ClearNote Campus Fellowship to give a lecture titled “Sexual by Design,” which addressed the nature of sexual relations according to his biblical interpretation. The lecture took place Friday night in Ballantine Hall.
The seats in the hall were filled, and people had to stand in a crowd at the back or sit in the aisle ways. Several police officers stood at the front and back of the room, scanning the crowd’s activity or talking on walkie-talkies.
Jacob Mentzel, ClearNote’s college pastor, was one of those who decided to bring him to speak.
“It just so happened Doug was going to be in town visiting,” Mentzel said. “We thought he’d be an interesting speaker to have on campus. We thought that because he was able to hold respect of nonbelievers and believers alike ... that people would be interested to hear what he said.”
Before he even arrived on campus, Wilson’s reputation preceded him, mainly sexual minority activist groups on campus, among others.
Members of these groups said Wilson is a pro-slavery champion and supportive of women submitting to men, though Wilson has denied these claims in previous interviews. They also said they see him as anti-gay. Many of these allegations stem from a controversial pamphlet in which he wrote “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since.”
Junior Jasmine Kelley, the founder of the IU Feminist Action Coalition, was with one of the groups that came to protest.
“This guy stated that homosexuality is against God’s design, and the people who were promoting it said that he believed that gender roles were becoming too melded,” Kelley said. “We believe that freedom of gender roles and of sexualities should be fluid.”
When Wilson took the stage, he captured attention from the audience.
At one point in the presentation, Sebastian Modes, a transgender person, began to scream at Wilson.
When the individual didn’t stop, the emcee requested they be removed. The police forced her out the back door and outside. Once outside, she continued to scream and resist the officers until she was put into the police car.
When the screams did not stop, much of the crowd in the back and several sitting stood up, began screaming and chanting at Wilson, and then ran outside after her with shouts of solidarity.
Sophomore Anna Schink saw the arrest.
“They were twisting her arms behind her back and she said, ‘Stop, you’re hurting me,’ and they wouldn’t,” Schink said, crying. “I asked them, ‘Under what grounds is she being arrested?’ And he said, ‘She broke a law.’ And I said, ‘What law did she break?’ ‘All of them.’ No one will answer. No one will say what law she broke or why she’s being arrested.”
IU Police Department Chief Keith Cash said IUPD officers were present at the event to make sure the lecture stayed peaceful, adding that audience members could express dissenting opinions as long as it was done peacefully.
Cash said Modes, who is not an IU student, engaged in disruptive behavior and refused to leave when asked. Cash said Modes resisted, and officers “had no choice but to arrest” Modes.
While Wilson’s lecture continued outside, the protesters began to host a “queer dance party” outside in the courtyard where the woman was arrested. They blasted music until police requested they lower the volume so that the lecture could continue.
After the lecture, Wilson opened up a Q-and-A session for audience members. The aisles filled with people of all ages and orientations waiting to speak with him.
Some of them said they respectfully disagreed with his opinions and asked questions to better understand his views. Others admitted to not listening to his speech at all. Still others didn’t ask any questions but simply stated their own opinions.
Mentzel, the ClearNote pastor, said he had had no idea that the event would cause this much controversy.
“We knew that we were addressing a controversial topic,” he said. “No doubt about that. We expected some people to react. We knew some people would take it personally. We didn’t expect this size of a response.”
Later in the evening, around 10 p.m., about 50 protesters marched down College Avenue to the Monroe County Correctional Facility carrying a banner that read, “The queer shall inherit the earth."
Protester Jasmine Kelley, a junior member of IU’s Feminist Action Coalition, said the group gathered to show solidarity with the audience member who was detained after shouting comments during the lecture.
Kelley said the protest was not directly affiliated with the Feminist Action Coalition. Instead, she said, after the incident occurred, a group formed to march to the jail.
The protesters arrived at the jail’s entrance shortly after 10 p.m., shouting, “We love you, we support you. You are not alone,” toward windows above the entrance.
After a few minutes of shouting, a knock on the window could be heard, and protesters cheered.
Protesters moved to the intersection of College Ave. and Seventh Street when Monroe County Sheriffs’ vehicles parked near the jail’s entrance. Shouting and chanting began to subside around 10:45 p.m.
“I’d like people to understand that there have been a lot of things thrown around about hate and bigotry,” Mentzel said. “We’re Christians. We’re committed to scripture. We believe what God says is important, and we believe that something really is at stake. It’s not hatred that motivated us to have Doug here to speak. It’s love.”
— Kirsten Clark contributed to this report
Like what you are reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.