Students Push Back After Christian College Guest Pastor Compared Capitol Riot To ‘Hate-Heightened Racial Attacks’

Alexa Schwerha 

  • Pastor Preston Williams II spoke at Lee University on Jan. 17 and included multiple references to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
  • The College Republican chapter accused Williams of pushing identity politics and pegging the Republican Party as a “common enemy.”
  • “It definitely felt like he was trying to allude to racism within political parties,” a student who attended the service and wished to remain anonymous told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Conservative students at a Christian college in Tennessee were unnerved by a recent church service during which the guest pastor referenced Jan. 6, a student who attended the service told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Pastor Preston Williams II preached during a reportedly mandatory service at Lee University on Jan. 17 and used the Jan. 6 Capitol riots as an example of historical events motivated by hate, according to video of the sermon. The Lee University College Republican chapter issued a statement on Jan. 19 condemning the inclusion of the Jan. 6 alongside civil rights disparities and called Williams’ statement an attempt to push “identity-politics and ensur[e] certain groups are categorized.”

“In speaking of these political events primarily associated with the Republican Party, we believe Dr. Williams implied a common enemy to these so-called racial divides that he condemned throughout the lecture,” the chapter wrote in a statement obtained by the DCNF. The group alleged that Williams’ message “suggest[ed] those who stormed the United States Capitol did so with racial intent.”

Williams is the pastor at Gateway Church in Florida and addressed the student chapel during a guest appearance. His lecture focused on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, which was federally recognized the day prior.

“Suppose we were to judge ourselves by recent events across the nation that involves a list of African Americans who have lost their lives to hate-heightened racial attacks, Jewish synagogues that’s been desecrated, and senseless attacks on Asians, just to name a few. And don’t forget what happened in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021,” Williams said, according to a video of the sermon. “In that case, we may see America blindly repeating the past mistakes as we continue to splinter over political affiliations that are deeply rooted in persistent racial and philosophical divides.”

“It has been eye-opening to see the events that the Capitol riots played out and, equally so, see the mixed response to what has happened,” Williams said. “If there is any message to be taken from where we stand today, we must all be willing to take responsibility for being a part of a change for the better inside of this nation.”

Lee University requires students to attend 70% of chapel services which are held twice a week, according to its website. The vice president of the Lee University College Republicans, who attended the sermon, was caught off-guard by the pastor’s message which the student alleges associated Republicans with “racism in the country,” the student told the DCNF.

“It definitely felt like he was trying to allude to racism within political parties. There was no reason to bring up January 6 when speaking about how all men are created in the Image of God,” the student said. “As the VP of College Republicans here at Lee, it felt like an attack on the Republican Party. I do not condone the acts of January 6. It certainly should not be used as a way to express racial roots in political divide.”

The student-led chapter urged the university to “better analyze the guests they choose to speak to our campus.”

“Those who step up to the Conn Center podium should be individuals who have been called to preach a Biblically evident message,” the group wrote.

Lee University has a history of opposing progressive politics, the student told the DCNF. The Lee University Student Handbook for the 2022-2023 academic year states that every member should live consistently with their biological sex and prohibits identifying or presenting as the opposite gender.

The handbook prohibits requesting others to use a name or pronoun not associated with one’s biological sex, requesting that government or university official documents be updated to reflect a change to the opposite sex or undergoing medical surgery to appear as the opposite sex.

“They have done a really good job sticking to truth and not letting political pressures hinder the safety of the students,” the student said. “So that’s why I was shocked when I started hearing about ‘equity’ in this past chapel service.”

Gateway Church and Lee University did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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