Evangelist causes a stir

No caption.
No caption. Photo by Jordi Gassó.

Jesse Morrell — a 25-year-old evangelist preacher from Cheshire, Conn., who said he did three stints at the juvenile detention center on Whalley Avenue for selling drugs — says he knows where most Yale students are headed: hell.

For the past three days, Morrell has used Yale’s campus as the platform for his open-air preaching. A self-proclaimed born-again Christian, he has spent much of the past three days sermonizing about the “evils of sin” on Old Campus, Cross Campus and the section of Wall Street near Woodbridge Hall.

While Morrell failed to attract much attention from passersby during his first two days on campus, on Thursday afternoon, about 100 Yalies gathered to watch him rail against moral corruption at Yale. Several of those gathered wondered aloud if Morrell actually believed the things he said, and others heckled during his sermon, while others still took photos and videos on their cell phones.

“It seems like he’s really enjoying this, frankly,” Jeremy Poindexter ’11 said.

Yale Police Sgt. Brian Logan, whose car was parked nearby, said he was there to protect everyone and make sure the crowd did not block the road. Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who is in charge of campus security, did not return a phone call Thursday.

In an interview Thursday, Morrell said the Yale Police Department issued him a trespass warning because students and University officials had complained about his preaching. As a result, he can no longer step foot on University grounds, he said, which is why he remained on the Wall Street sidewalk Thursday. (That warning could not be confirmed with any Yale officials.)

But Morrell said he has the right to profess his message. He added that he has been “unlawfully” arrested many times and has taken his complaints to court. Last August, he won $25,000 in damages from the New Haven Police Department for unnecessarily interfering with his sidewalk sermons.

Of 24 students interviewed Thursday, 13 said they had heard Morrell preaching, nine of whom said they found him entertaining. But others were not amused.

“I don’t think people should be pressing their religion on me,” Simon Cozzens ’13 said.

Morrell is head of the Open Air Outreach, a Christian ministry founded in 2002 to “take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to sinners through open-air preaching, calling them to forsake their sins and trust in Christ, and to train up other believers to do likewise,” according to the ministry’s Web site.

Morrell told the News he is not here to attack Yale specifically but that his mission is to preach at universities because he thinks college students today are morally depraved.

Wearing a herringbone jacket and cap, Morrell said he converted to Christianity in 2001, right before he turned 16. Morrell said it was during his time at the Whalley Avenue juvenile center that he was persuaded to convert to Christianity by a hellfire preacher.

He said he is well aware of the inflammatory nature of his sermons.

“It’s controversial on purpose,” he said. “I’m trying to get everyone’s attention so I can spread my message and create a debate.”

He said he believes every religion other than Christianity is wrong and that people must “turn or burn” — convert to Christianity or burn in “the fires of hell.”

Rev. Andrew Cunningham, director of the International Christian Fellowship, said he does not know who Morrell is, what he preaches or what his motives are. However, he did question Morrell’s authority to judge others and emphasized that Christianity insists God is the only judge of peoples’ actions.

“You are sure to find dogmatism within members of every religion,” Cunningham said. “I think tolerance is a basic tenet of Christianity.”

Morrell said he is not advocating hatred, but love. Carmen Chambers ’12, a member of Yale Students for Christ, said she talked to him and realized he has the right intentions but is blinded by his own judgement.

Chambers said she fears Morrell’s style of preaching will magnify the ill perception that people may have of Christianity, but thinks it may help people reflect on what they believe in.

Morrell said he is not sure whether he will continue to preach around campus today.

Taylor Lasley contributed reporting.


  • Recent Alum

    I understand the problems with most groups on this list, but really, what’s wrong with the potheads?

  • Bring Hell Back (on Steroids)

    see November 26 post entitled
    “Bring Hell Back (on Steroids)”



  • Pierson90

    “Rev. Andrew Cunningham, director of the International Christian Fellowship…emphasized that Christianity insists God is the only judge of peoples’ actions.”

    Well, since the Reverend was not quoted, there is doubt that is exactly what he said, because of course Christians are to judge actions, but only God can judge the heart.

    As for all the attention this street preacher is getting, who knows? Maybe he is just following in the tradition of Yale’s founders, or Jonathan Edwards, whose handwritten notes for his fiery sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” are preserved in a temperature controlled, hermetically-sealed glass case in Yale’s Bieneke Rare Book Library.

  • appy polly logies

    The Rev. *was* quoted: “You are sure to find dogmatism within members of every religion,” Cunningham said. “I think tolerance is a basic tenant of Christianity.”

    However, I wonder whether he or The News thinks “tenant” is being used correctly.

  • Chuckles

    “Obama voters.”

    C’mon: madjya chuckle, dinnit?

  • FailBoat

    Simon Cozzens is an idiot. Only a Yalie could be so insulated from reality that he thinks he has the RIGHT to walk around undisturbed by the opinion of others.

  • Crowd

    Glad that religion worked out for this guy and that he reformed his life. But why target only certain “sinners”. I thought that the Bible teaches that all have sinned despite of religion and race and orientation and all need a savior. Looks like this guy is all about provocation and publicity and hoping for another lawsuit windfall.

  • L V

    This is a case of serious mental illness.

  • Yale CC ’08

    this guy has it pretty wrong: potheads and masturbators are definitely the ONLY people going to heaven

  • @Pierson90

    What, do you think Beinecke is going to preserve the clapboard he’s wearing under hermetically sealed glass in the future?

    Try reading the whole article in the future.

  • christian

    I love Yale with all my heart, but it is going down a wrong path. I pray that God will open this great school’s eyes. I also pray that God will give this institutuion a passion for him and his word.

  • Openmind

    What? your mind is not open to truth? or only those truths you want and that justify your actions you choose that are harmful to you and others? everyone is a sinner and that includes those that are not on Jesse’s “list”.
    The remedy is Jesus Christ. He died for you so that you can escape Hell. Jesus paid the price for your sins. Hell was not created for humans, but for the devil. The devil wants to destroy you and doesn’t want you to be happy. God sent His son, Jesus to die for you because He so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

  • Drunkard ’07

    I always wonder why this strange bevy of Christian-fascist wingnuts fills up the YDN comments section with ridiculous, sanctimonious GOD/YALE/HELL screeds every chance they get. Where do you all come from?

    Sure this guy has as much of a right as anyone to be a crazy jerk in public. And I, as a proud, dirty dancing, liberal fornicator, have the right to make fun of him until he gives it up and gets a damn job. I suppose I’ll see you all in hell.

  • Pathetic

    The guy is crazy, but I found it embarrassing that Yale students gave him so much attention.

  • hatred yum

    He clearly said that there is not enough hatred and intolerance, and that people should be more hateful and more intolerant.

  • Just observing

    Interesting how both sides judge the other side so much…  

    evaluate whether you wish to give him attention and why. There is a right and wrong…some moral compass. We all know it. We ALL live in the grey.  God watches out for us all.   

  • Dante’s Inferno

    In his essay WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN Bertrand Russell declares that any religion which introduced into the world the concept of “eternal damnation” (AKA hell) was evil and he could not subscribe to it.

    Guess what religion he is talking about. The same religion which says “God is love.”

    The same religion which fanatics wearing sandwich boards latch onto with sadistic gusto.

    Nothing like telling others they aren’t good enough to make yourself feel better(that is if you have a need to feel better).

    For more on Sheol, Hell, and Skinner Boxes see “Bring Hell Back (on Steroids!)” November 26 post, http://theantiyale.blogspot.com

    Paul Keane

  • Gry

    How is this guy any different than the lady in Times Square with the sign around her next telling me to repent because the Rapture is imminent?

    You know those flamboyant Christians, though: always flaunting their lifestyle in public, acting like they have basic rights, and shoving their beliefs down other people’s throats.

    There should be a Referendum. Slippery slopes, you know…

  • Charles Sternaimolo

    The second paragraph in Gorman and Gasso’s article titled, “Evangelist Causes Stir”, states that Jesse Morrell is “a self-proclaimed born-again Christian…”
    Are not all born-again Christians self proclaimed? I did not realize being born-again is an appointment made by a church or outside source. It seems that these two student reporters have isolated and disqualified this street preacher because his message is not currently politically correct.
    Although I am quite sure that God’s words in the bible regarding homosexual relationships are being twisted and corrupted by religious followers, the man still has a right to free speech (as clearly written in our Constitution as a God-given right). Of course disagreeing students have a right to protest, too, but I find it interesting that the article only glances over the fact that this preacher won over $25,000 due to local police overstepping their authority. If the police had tried to quell a protest organized by gays this would have caused an uproar in the campus PC community and would have been the focus of Gorman and Gasso’s article.
    In no way do I agree with the ignorant and twisted views of these kinds of disturbed preachers, as Jesus would surly have encouraged the spread of love and acceptance. A religious follower such as Mr. Morrell is, as is almost always the case, reading into the bible his own personal beliefs. His time would be more effective and better spent spreading God’s message of love and acceptance, rather than corrupting the bible’s words to fit his backwards views.
    The photographs which accompany this article are superb. Surly at least one of these is worthy of a photo journalistic prize or honorable mention.

  • whynot

    I do not think anything wrong to let him preach to Yale students. In light of what is going on at Yale campus we can no longer say Yale has all the solutions. Maybe, we can learn something from the young preacher who had gone to Whalley Center instead of Yale.

  • NativeNYker

    This is nothing short of relious fanaticism. He needs medication!

    But on the other hand Carvalho’s photo is Time Magazine material.

  • Jason

    I wonder what he did with his $25,000.00
    Something Christian-like I hope.

  • elaygee

    People who believe that an invisible man in the sky is omnipotent, omniscient and everywhere at once and is watching everyone to judge them good or bad are probably in need of heavy psychopharmaceuticals to relieve their delusion paranoid mindframe.

  • European

    Wow, you really have your priorities in line. He condemns “Immodest women” and “muslims” and you think the problem is politics or banning druguse – US bigotry isn’t listed obviously.
    But then again, as an atheist I must say you succeeded in creating your own cultural hell on earth.

  • Yale ’08

    Seriously #23, can you atheists please can the trite and totally unoriginal Dawkinsian “God Delusion” position? You all claim to have a mind of your own and to think rationally and independently, right? In reality is the new dogma of the 21st century: something completely unprovable that claims to be the truth. If I hear the “invisible man in the sky” stereotype for everything science can’t explain one more time I’m going to vomit.

  • http://theantiyale.blogspot.com


    Buckminster Fuller, author of
    “The Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” and inventor of the geodesic dome, said that when he was 11 years old physics discovered that 99.9% of what is called reality is invisible (atomic structure). Just because something is invisible doesn’t mean it’s NOT real.

    It doesn’t mean it IS real either.

    See my post “What is Divinity School at Yale For?” at http://theantiyale.blogspot.com

  • PTchillin

    Yo just so you guys know.

    According to this guy, “God shot 2pac and Biggie”

    I’m so glad we got that mystery sorted out.

  • alum2

    “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
    Let the young preacher speak.

  • yalie

    God doesn’t exist. What are you going to do about it?

  • Nietzschean Compromise

    “There is no God and Mary is His mother.”
    (A heretical witticism from the past.)

  • Recent Alum

    Jesse Morrell seems like a cool, laid-back guy who just happens to have strong convictions and is truthful to what he believes in. I would much rather hang out with him than with a hack like Paul Keane.

  • Under your skin

    It’s a privilege to irritate you.

  • TD04

    “If I hear the “invisible man in the sky” stereotype for everything science can’t explain one more time I’m going to vomit.”

    – One of the problems is that the stereotype is used for many things that science can explain rather easily.

  • save the lost

    Read Luke 16: 19-31. It will be too late for you all when you are burning in the pit of hell.

  • I can’t believe

    I can’t believe how intolerant so many Yalies are. Just look at our behavior in the photos. Ever think that this might just be a guy TRYING TO SAVE OUR SOULS? You don’t have to believe his message (I don’t), but try to tolerate his mission.

  • Jesus

    I was totally down with the lepers+ prostitutes back in the day. Think about who I would be hanging out with today…it seems ya’ll need to reread your Bible.

  • cynthiaweaver

    Mr. Morrell,
    Yalies are by nature ultra-sensitive to acceptance and tolerance–that is what such a global and diverse community requires. The moment that you appear on a street corner screaming judgements, 99% of the Yale populations has just labeled you as a bigot and your religion as intolerant.
    I don’t care if you think that your arguments against atheism, etc. are rational. They were still screamed. They were still hateful. Congratulations, if you want to bring any Yalies toward believing in Jesus you’ve actually just taken about ten steps backward by making the student body hate your faith even more.
    It doesn’t matter what your theological arguments are, I have seen the reactions of my fellow undergraduates and that is a fact. I feel bad for the members of the Yale Christian Community who will spend the next several months doing damage control to make up for this fact.

  • immodest pot smoking homosexual liberal

    I find it disturbing that these losers don’t rant against true evil like the rape of little children by priests.


    Well, at Yale, Jesus would hang out with the taunted and berated minority… the religious.

  • Helen Li

    Never mind this guy, we in Britain have been scratching our heads why Yale invited Tony Blair to teach and set up a “Faith” project there. He is viewed as a war criminal by a majority of British people.

  • Kyra

    hmmm, looks like I only get 10 hell points. I obviously need to get out more. Perhaps 11 – he didn’t actually list pagans there, though I’m sure he intended to. What on earth sin could a Buddhist have committed? They have far stricter moral guidelines than most Christians do.

    He has every right to stand there and spew his intolerance. I have every right to laugh at him and tell him he obviously needs to masturbate more.

  • H

    Another reason not to go to Yale.

  • jenojeno

    Patrick Swayze is in hell?

  • Jinxyhoodwinker

    Crivens! Another relious/atheist flame war.

    I’m as yet undecided as to whether there’s any point in trying to argue this one out. I’m not wholly convinced that either religious individuals or atheists are likely to change their mind when confronted with a good argument.

    And is this really an argument? Or is it just proof against faith?

    And yes, before you start lecturing, I’ve read Dawkins. And agreed with his viewpoint.

  • fictionalharvardian

    haha your mean comments and the war of this peter keane against the world bring more students unto me at Harvard!

  • t

    after seeing the video i realized this guy clearly just wants the attention. he’s acting. why are people paying so much attention to this?

  • alum2

    The truth of life should be very simple otherwise it would not be fair for “nonintellectual”.
    Sometime when we are deep in our “intellectual” or “pleasure” pursuit we are blind to the simple truth.

  • @46

    We can not deny that there have been some tragic events at Yale campus lately. Yale administration so far provides no comments, no leadership and no solution. Perhaps, Yale students are seeking for some direction from the street…

  • Mykelb

    The fundamentalists in our society have become anti-American by proselytizing and continuously crossing constitutional barriers between church and state. Free speech is all good and well, however, when it interferes with other rights, it needs to be subjegated.

  • Hilarious
  • Orson Welles

    # 45
    “the war of this peter keane against the world”

    I’m flattered. No war:just a lifelong skirmish with elitism, materialism, racism, sexism.



  • @49

    #49 in our society have become anti-American by proselytizing and continuously crossing constitutional barriers between “#49″s church and state. Free speech is all good and well, however, when it interferes with other rights, it needs to be subjegated.

  • Yale 08


    How does an individual speaking to other individuals violate the Constitution prohibition against an official state religion?

  • Chris

    I question this so-called evangelist’s authenticity. He’s a walking cliche, and perhaps one specifically calculated to portray Christians in a negative light. I’m not sure of his true motives, or who if anyone is guiding him, but there’s probably more to this street preacher than meets the eye.

  • AmericanAtheistStreetFighter

    The sign of Morrell is hate speech. It is fitting that this perpetrator be banned from the Yale Campus. As for his screaming in the faces of the listed kinds of people or anyone else, where are the local Atheists and Gays who should read his insane bible back to him. Try Ezekiel 23:20 and Hosea 13:16 and dozens of other obscene bestial and violence against women passages ordered by Jehovah itself. Jeebus and Ghost Holes in this idiots head need to be pointed out, shaming this creep back into his drug addicted pot head basement room. His version of the xian religion deserves no respect. Morrel is showing no respect to perhaps half of America. Morrell certainly deserves no single tax exemption for any property he operates his bible pornography business. 843-926-1750 Dial An Atheist Larry Carter Center

  • Alum

    #54, did you actually watch the video or see him speak? From the vid on the YDN website, he appears to be quite a good speaker. He was talking about how he used to be a sinner too before finding Christ, nothing overly controversial. His sign is meant to be provocative to draw attention, but (other than the potheads go to Hell part, which I’m not sure has biblical support) it is fairly standard Christian doctrine. Like others who oppose homosexuality (whether from a religious or secular perspective), his view is that people should stop engaging in homosexual *conduct*, not that we should loathe those with homosexual proclivities. It’s really telling that at Yale some would say that he is “insane,” “mentally ill,” etc.

  • alum2

    One can never underestimate the power of the simple truth. It works for Mr. Morrell that he is no longer selling drug. He is trying to bring the simple truth to Yale. The fear of hell may have changed that killer’s mind…so sad for Annie and Yale.

  • Hell is the Original Skinner Box

    You put your finger on it.(“scare the hell out of you”) If religion is a primitve form of psychiatry, then “hell” is a pretty good Skinner Box for deterring local violations of the “Thou shalt not kill” commandment, but, unfortunately, not for mass violations like war.

    “Bring Hell Back (on Steroids)”


  • ConcernedCalvinist

    I’m commenting this on the articles about Jesse…

    Jesse Morrell is a heretic by all orthodox standards of Christianity. As an open-theist he denies God’s comprehensive knowledge of the future, he denies God’s sovereignty, and makes God out to be a confused child and man out to be the ultimate authority. He promotes works-righteousness (good deeds make you right with God and maintain that rightness.) Jesus Christ plus anything is a worthless, vain pursuit in philosophy.

    This man thrives on heckling because he has carefully crafted his own reality; where if he acts foolishly and brashly he can claim this as persecution for the cause of Christ. To quote Keith Green, “It [the Bible] doesn’t say blessed are you when you are obnoxious for the Lord.” If you guys at Yale want him to leave you should ignore him, any attention keeps him around. I do believe open-air preaching is a valid means of communicating the Gospel (or any other idea to be publicly engaged,) but the way Mr.Morrell carries himself is arrogant and foolish.

    For an orthodox presentation of what Mr.Morrell claims to be preaching (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) see: http://illbehonest.com/biblical-gospel

    I do urge you all to repent and believe the Gospel, but not from the authority of Jesse’s god, but from the God of the Bible, who will judge all men according to His law. If you want to hear a Christian who actually knows what he is talking about; invite James White on campus (aomin.org) He has debated Dan Barker on multiple occasions. I am certain he would welcome an invitation.

    In Christ, Cody

  • blessedinva

    The fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of wisdom. While at Yale, I was bulimic. I was also depressed and a huge drinker. Once, in despair, I called out to God, alone in my room in Saybrook College. I told him that “You know I would never commit suicide, but can you please take this pain from me?” I was raised believing in God, even though I didn’t know how to really walk with him at that point. I’ll never forget what happened. Alone in that dark room, I felt a feeling of warmth and love, almost like I was being hugged. Within a few weeks, the bulimia left me never to return. That is the God I know and serve. When I was doing the walks of shame, every weekend, I knew that I was violating his law…but I never knew His mercy, to pull me out of despair, and give me a new life.

    If you really want to know this God, read the New Testament, especially the book of John! Jeremiah the prophet wrote about the days when God would write His law on the heart of men…that time is here now. …It is offered to many…and if you hear his voice, you will come to Him too.


    April Selenskikh
    SY 1996