Kristen Dragotto, A&E Editor
On April 29, a Christian evangelist group came onto the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ campus, setting up in the Quad. They began protesting all non-Christian ideologies which provoked an angry response from UMSL’s student body.
According to Daniel Redeffer, a graduate student of UMSL’s college of Public Policy and Political Science, the group began their demonstration around 11:30 a.m. Redeffer stated that, “The group was yelling homophobic, racial and bigoted comments at the students who were in the quad.” Redeffer further explained that in response, students began congregating around the evangelist group, shouting back in protest of the intolerant comments the religious group made.
When asked about the escalation of their demonstration, the leader of the evangelist group, Scott Smith, stated, “I am a full-time campus minister that comes to campuses like UMSL, to preach a simple message: that God sent his son to save sinners. What happened here today was the reaction we saw in the days of Jesus, people wanted to throw him off a cliff, kill him because they don’t like the message. We feel as Christians we have a responsibility to share that message. We come out of love even though it got rowdy out here. We are here to answer any questions that the students have.”
The message of love and peace seemed to be lost in translation as students and evangelists continued to argue over the statements that the evangelist group shouted. Melissa Southers, junior, computer science, stated, “This group makes me feel unsafe.” Safety seemed to be growing concern for students as the evangelists’ demonstration and protest became fueled by hate rather than love.
As the situation escalated, UMSL PD was called to the scene on three separate occasions to ensure that all persons were safe, and that the evangelist group was abiding by Senate Bill No. 93 and the UMSL’s Campus Free Expression Guidelines. UMSL PD stated, “When we receive calls for issues regarding free expression, our officers respond in person to ensure all parties abide by Senate Bill No. 93 and UMSL’s Campus Free Expression Guidelines.” UMSL PD mediated and monitored the situation, ensuring all parties were safe.
Senate Bill NO. 93 deems the outdoor areas of campuses of public institutions of higher education, like UMSL’s Quad, a public forum. This in turn, allows groups like the evangelists to use their First Amendment right to demonstrate, protest, distribute literature, give speeches, circulate petitions and carry signs. Unless this group violates any part of that bill or the guidelines UMSL has set for the public, the group has the legal right to be there.
Jenna Haddock, junior, psychology, stated, “I think it is moronic that the administration of this university is allowing people to make students uncomfortable. It is absurd because the students are the ones that are paying to be here.”
In response to the event April 29, the UMSL student body has now begun a petition to prevent the evangelist group from coming back to campus in hopes that the UMSL administration will take some sort of action.