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Merchants OK with preaching downtown, but not volume
Downtown merchants say they don't begrudge a local church's right to send preachers to the pedestrian mall on Main Street.
They just wish the preaching was a little quieter.
"I don't think he's helping the church," said Bill Lutes, co-owner of Lutes Casino, 221 S. Main St. "People don't like being yelled at."
Bill's brother Bobby agrees.
"I think he offends more people than he attracts," Bobby Lutes said.
Both men said that Main Street businesses have a hard enough time trying to survive without complications like hell-fire and brimstone preaching every Saturday when the shopping crowds are usually the thickest.
The Sun recently spent an afternoon talking to business people in the shops that line either side of the Main Street pedestrian mall. All of the people spoken to agreed that the preaching by members of Truth Baptist Church, 308 S. 23rd Ave., can get too loud.
But all of them also staunchly defended the church's right to preach there.
"It's loud," agreed Veronica Ruiz, owner of Veronica's Wildflowers. "But it doesn't bother me. At least he's trying to do something."
She said she always gets a few complaints about the preaching, which usually takes place on Saturdays. But, she said, some "winter visitors complain about everything."
Others weren't so charitable.
Ron Codling of Kirstin's, 261 S. Main St., said, "He's got his rights to be out there, but we're not happy with it."
Codling said sometimes he has to close the doors to his shop because the preaching is so loud.
"It gets old after a half-hour," he continued. "Sometimes there's a couple of them and they take turns and then it really gets old."
Daniel Greiner became the new pastor at Truth Baptist in January. He says that since he's been here, he doesn't believe the men he's sent to preach downtown have shouted.
Instead, he characterized their preaching as "fervent."
"The Bible says lift up your voice like a trumpet," Greiner said. "So if you can imagine a trumpet, you can imagine the intensity of the preaching."
He said he usually sends people downtown to preach on Saturdays.
"I'm sure it might bother some people, but I don't think it deters business," Greiner said.
He said the preachers honor a person's right not to listen.
"I don't believe it's how loud we're speaking," Greiner continued. "It's the message, and they don't like it."
City spokesman James Stover said that over the years the city has gotten complaints about the preaching. He said typically the complaints come from merchants or people attending one of the numerous downtown events.
Stover said some complain because of the shouting, while others complain of the words being said.
Either way, there's not much the city can do, he added.
While officials can ask preachers to lower their volume, they can't be chased away.
"Having our sensibilities offended on occasion is the price you pay to live in a free society," Stover said.
Janet Trannum, who works at Almost Heaven Products, 224 S. Main St., Suite 105, said she's a Christian and she doesn't mind anybody preaching the gospel. But, she added, he should do it more softly.
"He really shouts," she said. "He's down two blocks and I can here him here."
Zelma McDonald of Ms. Betty's Boutique said she gets occasional complaints, although the preaching doesn't bother her personally.
"I just don't like to get into anybody's religion," she said. "You learn to tune things out."
Cheri Allen, who works at Stamps, Etc., said her personal opinion is that the preacher has a right to be there.
"However, there should be some consideration when someone has a performance," she said. She explained that sometimes groups come downtown to sing or dance and the preaching competes with their performances. It's especially troubling when the group is made up of children who are doing their best but have to contend with someone else's shouting.
Nevertheless, she said, "Someone may need to hear what he has to say."
Pinkie Paranya of Time 'N Tune, 281 Main St., said many business people are upset because they have to pay to operate downtown and the preachers don't.
"He's very disruptive," Paranya said. "People are not charmed by his manner. I know he's entitled, but sometimes when we have kids' programs, he scares the kids. They don't know what it's about."
Susan Neunzer, who works at Twigs, 299 S. Main St., said that personally she doesn't think it bothers Twigs customers - who are a pretty happy-go-lucky bunch, she added.
Silverio Soares, co-owner of Glass & Craft, 298 S. Main St., said many customers won't come to the shop on Saturday because of the preaching.
"I mean, it's all right to preach, but don't preach where you're not wanted - that isn't God," Soares said.
Kay Soares agreed.
"He's very disruptive," she said. "People get really turned off. Jesus didn't go out and scream at people. He's out there literally screaming at the top of his voice, and he tries to hand flyers out and follows people if they don't take it."
T.M. Shultz can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6852.