The Free Speech Platform condones campus harassment

A preacher from The Campus Ministry USA and a Fresno State student argue Tuesday, March 20, 2018 during a campus visit by the ministry group. Jed Smock, the preacher in the brown coat, said the visit was successful after several students gathered to listen to him speak. Students shouted their arguments. (Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado/The Collegian)

For the past couple years, a group of extreme evangelists have come to the Free Speech Platform during the spring semesters to preach their vision of Christianity to Fresno State students, staff and the public.

Whether it be religion, social or political issues, everyone is welcome to say whatever they want at Fresno State’s public campus in the free speech zone. However, the altercations and arguments between the extreme evangelists and students have created so much tension that a police presence is always necessary when a crowd begins to form.

Often drawing huge crowds of people for several hours at the center of campus, their controversial messages and ideals seem to be an effort to garner as much attention and dramatic reactions from passersby as possible.

Many students who have attended Fresno State for longer than a year have come to discover that the religious group is most commonly referred to as the crazy people who scream absurd and often offensive things at people, like “You’re going to hell” and “Everyone is a sinner.”

By constantly blurting out aggressive phrases and confronting anyone near them, the separation between what counts as free speech and what is a clear form of harassment has become blurred.

Positioning the extreme evangelists directly in the way of students heading toward the Henry Madden Library or University Student Union has proved to be both a distraction and an obtrusive voice to anyone walking on campus.

This dissonance of allowing the harassment of the public is in conflict with the value of providing religious groups not only a platform, but an entire area which is highly populated on campus to spout their interpretations of the Bible. On top of this, their confrontations with the campus community often extend beyond the interested crowd.

Students walking anywhere near the free speech area are susceptible to this aggressive ideology when they are not looking to engage, or even stop to pay attention to the extreme evangelists.

This is why the line between promoting free speech and harassment treads dangerously close to being a public nuisance for everyone attending the university.

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