MURRAY, KY. – Students rallied in a counter protest on Oct. 8 after a man began preaching in the Free Speech Zone.
The man, who declined The News’ request for an interview, was preaching on scriptures from the Bible, along with informing students of what he believed to be sinful living.
Murray State allows non-University related groups and individuals to spread their messages outside on campus if they are sponsored by a University organization. Those without sponsorship are given the same opportunity so long as they use the Free Speech Zone. This zone is located in the grassy area between the Curris Center and the Carr Health Building.
Students said the man told many of them they were “going to hell” for the way they were dressed or their sexual orientation.
Upon hearing this, dozens of students rallied around him in a counter protest, holding up the gay pride flag, streamers with pride flags on them and the transgender pride flag.
The Murray State University Police Department had officers on hand to ensure the safety of all involved.
Students who had been the subject of the man’s apparel comments removed their shirts in protest.
Freshman Lexi Albin, majoring in psychology, was one of those students.
“I walked past him earlier, he told me God didn’t like my pants because they were too tight,” Albin said. “He’s preaching hate instead of love and it’s annoying.”
Kelsey Gardner, a junior occupational safety and health major, had a similar encounter with the man.
“He said I was going to hell for wearing yoga pants,” Gardner said.
The man seemed to not realize that love is everywhere and it does not know any race, color or gender, Gardner said.
The LGBT community found its own ways to speak out against what the man was preaching. Many of them sported their pronoun and sexual orientation pins while others waved pride flags.
“We’ve got a full circle out here supporting the LGBTQ+ community,” Emily Andreina, junior elementary education major said.
Andreina said a good portion of the students there were bystanders, as well as aiming to find out what was going on.
“I would say a large sum of them are just giving him the middle finger and saying love is love, it doesn’t matter who it is, who they are,” Andreina said.
Others didn’t think protesting the man was the right way to go, and believed just leaving the man be was the best option.
“I know this guy is just making a fool of himself, and really I think we should just ignore him,” Joe Enoch, junior television production major said. “Let him move on because we’re just giving him more attention than [he] deserves.”
Despite some students choosing to simply ignore the man’s protest, he drew a large crowd for several hours on campus.
One student purchased $50 worth of water using her Flex Dollars to pass out to the counter-protesting students. Another brought soft drinks to the students who were trying to have their voices heard.
Late in the afternoon, a group of students brought out a sound system to play music that supported their message of spreading love.
Police oftentimes had to push the crowd back from the man when tensions started to run high.
Murray State is a public institution and as such, is required by law to allow free speech. The University does however require advance notice of such free speech demonstrations and paperwork to be filed with the administration.
For more information on the University’s Outdoor Request Policy for non-University organizations visit https://www.murraystate.edu/Libraries/Curris_Center/Outdoor%20Request%20Policy.pdf.
The man plans to continue spreading his message in the Free Speech Zone on Wednesday, Oct. 9, as well.