Fresno State students protest the Evangelical preachers that came to the Free Speech Area on Tuesday, Mar. 8, 2016./Cinthia Quesada

Don’t thump the bible thumpers

The radical Bible thumpers on campus have raised their stakes this week at the Free Speech Area. And it is annoying.

They disrupt our academic learning environment and impede student traffic.

This week individuals walked from the Free Speech Area to the fountain, pointing out students and telling them they are going to hell. Students were targeted for things like piercings (the devil’s work, said the speaker) and carrying feminist textbooks (women belong in the kitchen, according to another speaker).  

Unfortunately there is not much the university can do about it. The crazies have the right to be there just as much as we do. While we may not agree with their words or their methods, we have to respect their freedom of speech.

Unless they incite a riot or physically harm someone, their speech is protected.

While the case can be made that what the speakers are doing is hate speech – hate speech is one of those grey areas of the law.

There is no universal definition of hate speech, and even if there were, hate speech is not exempt from our First Amendment rights.

Nor should it be. The moment one person is silenced, the possibility for all of us to be silenced exists.

That being said, you do not have to give them your attention.

Yes, you may hate them. They may stand for everything you despise, but do not give them power over you.  

The best kind of hatred is not hatred at all – it is indifference.

So while an old man in waning tweed tells you that masturbation will send you to hell, ignore him. If you ignore him, he has no audience and therefore no power.

Let the radicals be radicals, there is no real place for them in a space of higher learning. Just by being at Fresno State and educating yourself, you have set yourself a cut above those that are perpetuating hateful ideas at our Free Speech Area.

There always seems to be a pool of people that surround the speakers while they verbally harass students. Part of this is because it is a spectacle. What these people are doing is garnering attention. They are not embodiments of Christianity, they are radicals that stain the good work that local churches partake in. A better use of these people’s time would be volunteering at some of the local churches that hand out food to students with food insecurity.

What these individuals want is to provoke you, and build the case that they are victims. Don’t give them that affirmation. Don’t threaten them, don’t pick fights with them.

In their mind, when we become upset and react, we are validating their insipid and ignorant ideas. Don’t feed the trolls.

If they tell you that loving someone of the same sex will send you to hell, smile. Do what the Cross Cultural and Gender Center did when harassed by the hateful preachers – hand out rainbow stickers and smile.

Use their hatred as an opportunity to set examples and educate those around us.

Loving someone of the same sex does not mean that you are a bad human. Masturbating is natural and fun. Feminism doesn’t send you to hell, it empowers the entire population.

While these evangelicals are trying to tear people down, what they have done instead is unite students of all backgrounds in solidarity against them. Use that solidarity to spread peace and inclusivity.