Roberts: Free speech, questionable tactics

The preachers’ tactics are both disruptive and offensive to students.

Jenny Roberts

Jenny RobertsShouts could be heard as a large crowd gathered near the Paley library. On Oct. 3, a group of six evangelists came to Main Campus to preach the Gospel. They stationed themselves around one of Temple’s main hubs of activity – the Bell Tower. A controversial exchange between the preachers and Temple students ensued.

Temple students, known for our tolerance and diversity, did not kindly receive the “Good News,” though. Of course, this may be because this news attacked the majority of the student body.

“They were talking about the evil of Islam and the inferiority of women and gays,” said Jonathan Tate, a freshman history major.

Temple students of all backgrounds challenged the statements of the evangelists, but to no avail.

“Their minds were as closed as safes,” Tate said.

The radical evangelists did nothing to win converts or encourage civilized dialogue. Instead, arguments broke out. Of course, the preachers chose to address controversial topics, like abortion, premarital sex and evolution – which I believe was in the hopes of stirring chaos.

And it did. Around 100 students held up signs, shouted and even danced to distract the preachers.

Students were simply responding to the dense logic and distasteful evangelization techniques of the preachers.

“Street-corner preaching may bolster group morale, among the preachers that is, but is a poor way to win converts,” said Lucy Bregman, a professor in the Department of Religion. “[It] comes through as obnoxious, especially when it is done aggressively and by amateurs.”

The evangelists’ outing was not successful, but I’m also not even sure it was entirely legal. At the least, this forum was a breach of peace, but their speech also closely resembled fighting words, which are not protected by the First Amendment.

Hate speech offends, threatens or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, sexual orientation or other traits. The preachers definitely crossed this line by damning all gays to hell.

Freshman english major Darrek Mislivets said some evangelists also claimed that the Holocaust happened for a legitimate reason and made emotionally and culturally insensitive comments about slavery.

“At one point he said ‘What’s wrong with slavery?’” Mislivets said.

 I don’t believe these so-called men of God would choose such emotionally charged topics unless they wanted to provoke a negative response.

These preachers shouldn’t be able to walk on to Main Campus and start a screaming match in front of our library, just because Temple is a public university. They also shouldn’t be able to insult students or disrupt their route to class.

If a student organization wants to station at the Bell Tower, they must go through the process of submitting a request to the Student Activities Office, according to University Scheduling and Space Management Policy. And once there, if they yelled intolerant claims the way these preachers do, they would be in some serious trouble – the most notable instance of this was the altercation between students over politics during Temple Fest this year.

So why are we letting extremists disguised as holy men get away with it?

Jenny Roberts can be reached at and on twitter @jennyroberts511

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