Every semester when campus life reaches the height of chaos, students are greeted by the comforting sound of a lunatic screaming, “You are all going to burn in Hell!” into a bullhorn.
This call to repentance comes via traveling street preachers. They arrive on campus a couple times a year with provocative signs, claiming to be spreading the gospel. In actuality, they are spreading nothing but hate and inciting violence. It’s a pretty simple equation actually. Arrive on campus, verbally attack specific students, hope someone assaults you, sue, and repeat.
I’d hoped when I first arrived at Cal State Long Beach that this wasn’t always the way these unwelcome visitors went about spreading the “Good News.” I was optimistic that one day I would see them praying with someone quietly or sitting down to open up the Bible they wave at the crowds. But I’ve yet to see anything but screaming, constant berating of students, and a mockery made of a faith that, unlike Brother Jed and his wife Sister Cindy, I take seriously.
At the beginning of the month, I sat in the audience at an academic senate meeting and listened to President Jane Close Conoley address what she calls “student parking woes.”
“We cannot have our students driving around for hours looking for spots and getting stressed before they get to work here,” said Conoley.
However comforting it may be to hear administration actually showing interest in fixing the parking problems, my mind went elsewhere. Granted, parking can be stressful, but it’s a predictable struggle.
You know what’s not a predictable or necessary struggle on our campus? A so-called evangelist screaming at me just moments before I walk into my classroom. Or trying to eat a salad outside the Nugget while a different street preacher yells out the graphic reasons why she believes anal sex is wrong and how gay men are sick freaks.
Nope, I didn’t order a side of hate speech with my lunch and for some reason I believed that here, at #nobarriers Long Beach, bigotry of this fashion wouldn’t be tolerated.
Hate speech is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as a speech or address inciting hatred or intolerance, especially toward a particular social group on the basis of ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexuality, etc.
I understand that hate speech is still classified under the first amendment as “free speech.” I don’t expect anyone to file charges against these hate-spewing people or lock them up and throw away the key. But I certainly don’t wish for them to be welcomed onto the center of campus.
Why not change the location of the free speech lawn? They’d be much less of a nuisance to students while maintaining an equal amount of foot traffic if they were located in front of Brotman Hall. Or how about actually speaking with these “evangelists” to help them understand that only peaceful evangelism will be allowed here at Long Beach.
Violent protesting isn’t allowed on The Beach, so why is violent evangelism? And with the growing number of students being treated for anxiety and depression, one would think the administration would take a better look at eliminating stress-inducing situations such as these.
Do you know what it’s like to be screamed at and told you’re going to suffer eternal damnation because you’re wearing yoga pants? I’ve witnessed street preachers yell this at female students and it’s disgraceful. We aren’t paying to be verbally assaulted here at school. We are paying for an education devoid of religious or personal persecutions. Just because someone throws slurs from the free speech lawn doesn’t make it okay. It doesn’t make it right and I’d like something to be done.
I can’t and I won’t continue to be silent and tolerate hate speech masked as religion, used to openly attack LGBTQ students, Muslim students, Jewish students, or any university students for that matter. This school is supposed to be inclusive. Yet, how can we call ourselves a safe place for all if we are allowing religious radical groups to come and harass students? In choosing to stay out the conversation, the school is contributing to the problem.
When someone uncovers graffiti that features hateful slurs or symbols on campus, the necessary procedures are taken to report and remove the defaced property. When certain items, such as desks, are vandalized to the point of no return, they have to be removed completely. Well, this is my complaint of religious persecution, bigotry, and spread of hate around campus. File the report and do us all a favor by redirecting or removing the street preaching trash. Better yet, call the street sweeper.