Street preach somewhere else

Street preach somewhere else

December 05
14:50 2014

Joshua Knopp / News Editor

A world-renowned music school. Thirty-four doctoral programs. An unprompted, unappreciated street performance every Wednesday about how everyone is going to Hell.

One of these things does not belong at UNT, and it’s time the school put its foot down and stamped it out.

UNT has a long tradition of street preachers. To make sure they don’t interfere with classes, the school designates free speech zones that outside groups can register to use for protest. Almost all of these outside groups are evangelical ministers trying to save the souls of students they presume to be homosexual, adulterous and drug-addled.

The free speech zone used to be outside of the union across the street from the Baptist Student Ministry building, but with construction, the zone had to be moved this semester – first in the courtyard just north of the Hurley Administrative Building, then to Highland Street on the south side of the Library Mall.

It’s easy to keep track of, because every Wednesday, Robert Reece of Heritage Grace Community Church of Frisco comes down from his high pulpit to tell everyone about the metaphysical consequences of the hedonistic, morally bankrupt college lifestyle.

Reece is not a student and has no tangible connection to the university. His rallies violate the Student Code of Conduct – these demonstrations run afoul of the “acts affecting the university community” clause by inciting a breach in the peace and engaging in disruptive activity. They also violate code-listed student right to pursue an education without undue interference and be free of discrimination based on religion and sex.

Simply put, students aren’t allowed to do to each other what this man is allowed to do to them because of “free speech.”

What Reece does is ethically insidious. He’s pitting his First Amendment rights to express himself and practice his religion against everyone else’s First Amendment rights to not be persecuted for their own religion and sexuality – if they even have a different religion or sexual orientation. He never stops to ask.

This puts the university in a tricky spot – it can either allow students to be harassed and heckled by people who have no traditionally accepted business being here, or it can risk the public fallout of “persecuting” Reece by not allowing him to spread his deeply held religious hatred in a public space.

Either of these options violates someone’s rights. The university does have to disenfranchise someone here. The choice is between alienating someone with no tangible business on campus in the first place and alienating the average student.

UNT is choosing the wrong one. 

The saying goes that a person’s right to swing his fist ends where another person’s nose begins, and that very much applies to this situation. A university is a place for learning and experimentation, not for closed-minded, straight and narrow dogma that surrounds Bible Belt residents from every direction regardless.

It’s time for the university to put students first. It’s time to get Reece, and all other street preachers, off campus.

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1 Comment

  1. Older and wiser
    Older and wiser May 05, 10:55

    What part of “free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment” do you fail to understand? If you don’t want to be heckled by Reece or anyone else in the Free Speech area, then be wise and just stay away. And wake up and realize that if you want the right to “pursue an education without undue interference and be free of discrimination based on religion and sex,” then Reece should equally have the right to express his religion, even if you don’t personally agree with his beliefs. You should realize that members of many religious denominations believe homosexuality, sexual activity outside of marriage and drug use in any form is sinful, and they have a right given by the Constitution to publicly speak out against it. Therefore, neither Reece nor anyone else who preaches their beliefs can be banned. As for “inciting a breach in the peace and engaging in disruptive activity” – I’ve seen many preachers like Reece come to campus, and it’s the students who argue with him who are most disruptive. So be wise and realize that you can’t control what others say because you disagree with them. You can only control your own reaction to what they say, and that means avoiding the Free Speech area and/or ignoring the preachers. It’s not hard to do! Also realize that UNT is not a safe space, so don’t be a snowflake and insist that the campus be one by banning people from the Free Speech Area. Grow up and learn to deal with people who say things that are against your beliefs.

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