A group of SFA students have planned a peaceful protest against the harassment students encounter from preachers who visit campus to preach to students walking by. The protest will be held 10 a.m. on Nov. 18. There is also a petition that students can sign.
Attendees will be asked to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Those who organized the protest will be providing water and snacks. There will also be multiple flags in support of different movements and identities.
“Anyone is able to come and attend the protest if they feel that the preachers should be removed from campus,” Ashton Maisel, junior political science major from Plano, said. “They disturb the peace of our campus and make it hard to attend classes or go to the [Baker Pattillo Student Center]. Many people can just ignore them and keep walking, but what about the students who can’t?”
This past Wednesday, one of the main preachers who comes to campus wore a body camera and was shouting and threatening to hit students.
As part of the preachers’ message, members of the LGBTQ+ community are told that they are sinning and will be going to hell for their life choices and students are yelled at, saying they are discriminating against the preachers for no reason.
“There is a petition going around that has over 200 signatures; and one student commented that if she knew people like this were allowed to be here on campus, she would have picked a different university to attend,” Maisel said. “This is directly threatening potential transfers and freshmen from picking SFA as their new home. The administration should be more concerned about this issue.”
Morgan Leisman, junior criminal justice major from New Braunfels, was one of the students who helped organize the protest.
“Honestly when the preachers do come out on Wednesday, the campus does not feel at home because of all the harassment going on,” Liesman said. “I do not feel safe on campus; when the preachers threaten to hit a student and nothing is done, that is just wrong.”
“I hope that they stop or at least go somewhere we don't have to pass to go to classes or to get food,” Katie Gibson, a senior education major from Mabank said. “The hate they spew is hurting people mentally and can be very dangerous.”
As someone who is a Christian, Gibson said that hearing hate speech coming from preachers on campus is a hard thing to hear.
“I struggled for so long about my sexuality because I had people at my church spew the same kind of hate to me since I was little,” Gibson said. “I talked to other LGBTQ+ people and they have said the same [thing].”
According to Dr. Adam Peck, dean of student affairs, Texas state law requires that all public colleges and universities “ensure that the common outdoor areas of the institution ’s campus are deemed traditional public forums; and permit any person to engage in expressive activities in those areas of the institution ’s campus freely [and to] spontaneously and contemporaneously assemble or distribute written material without a permit or other permission from the institution.” (Senate Bill 18, 2019).
Furthermore, the American Civil Liberties Union has previously written, “The First Amendment to the Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Restrictions on speech by public colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution.”
“First, I’d like to say that I support our LGBTQ+ students,” Peck said. “The things I often hear these ‘preachers’ say are not in alignment with my values, nor do I think they reflect the beliefs or values of most of us here at SFA. I hope that all of our students know that they are valued by this university and that we are a better place because of groups like the LGBTQ+ Caucus.”
Peck also said students should read the policy that limits what individuals on campus can say, and that students can contact the Office of Student Affairs with concerns.
“There are certainly limits to what individuals can say,” Peck said. “These are outlined in a university policy called ‘Assemblies and Demonstrations.’ I’d encourage students to look at this policy. These groups may not engage with you unless you engage with them; if they do that, students can contact my office.”