Students gathered outside the Student Union on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 as a result of the Bible Evangelism group’s protest on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus.
Like previous years, the group came on campus with signs, and they proclaimed their messages and beliefs as students passed by. Bible Evangelism is an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim and anti-Feminist group, amongst many other things. Students stopped to either hear the messages or counter-protest.
One man from the group came alone on Oct. 31 and multiple people from the group came on Nov. 1.
The sole protester on Oct. 31 was seen wearing a body cam and live streaming. Two of the protesters on Nov. 1 were seen wearing body cams.
A student who wishes to remain anonymous expressed their discomfort in the protesters being allowed on campus.
“Honestly, it’s very disconcerting because of all of these protesters they’re allowed on campus because it’s a public place, but it makes everybody feel afraid and unsafe because they’re here and they’re spreading this message of ignorance and hate,” they said. “When all we want to do is love and be free.”
Judas Broussard is a freshman majoring in biology and said what the protesters are preaching goes against Christian teachings.
“I find them to be very funny, a little embarrassing for all of Christianity. As a non-Christian myself who reverted from Christianity, it’s very silly,” Broussard said. “It’s nothing like what they actually teach in Christianity. I find them to be harmless.”
Students at the Oct. 31 protest were chanting “Leave our campus!” and wrote messages in chalk with sayings such as, “My Body My Choice,” “#CajunsAgainstHate,” “These people spread hate! Cajuns for love!,” “Love wins over fear,” “All dogs go to heaven” and “God loves gays.”
Student organizations such as Giving Love, Acceptance, Safety and Support (GLASS) counter-protested by sharing positive affirmations to students. Some students also played music and danced near the protesters who came on campus.
GLASS President Cody Barbier discussed some rules with members before partaking in the counter-protest, including not touching the Bible Evangelism group and not interacting with them directly in order to keep students safe and represent the organization in a positive manner.
“About every year we have religious bigots who come to campus with the intention of spreading hate. Every year the campus community comes together to peacefully protest and works to drown out the hate with love. It’s something we’re proud of and by counter-protesting, we hope to show current and future Ragin’ Cajuns that are LGBTQ+ that there is an accepting community here for them,” GLASS wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
“Also I always want to emphasize that our protest isn’t non-LGBTQ+ people vs LGBTQ+ people or religious people vs atheists. Our counter-protest includes people of many different religious affiliations, genders, sexualities, etc who oppose the hate being spread and want to drown it out with positivity and love,” the statement continued.
Police officers from the UL Lafayette Police Department were present at both protests.
The protesters are part of a group called Bible Evangelism which is a ministry within Consuming Fire Fellowship, a church based in Gloster, Mississippi. According to the Consuming Fire Fellowship website, “Consuming Fire Fellowship began with seven people in December 1995 in the home of Pastor Britt Williams. After his conversion, Pastor Williams, who is originally from Baton Rouge, spent several years involved almost solely in open-air evangelism. He preached weekly on the campus of Louisiana State University (LSU).”
Bible Evangelism in the Our Mission part of their website states, “We believe America is under judgment because we as a nation have rejected God. Abortion, sodomy, suicide, divorce, adultery, racism, drug addiction, false religion, humanism, and socialism are plaguing this great land.”
Along with protesting at UL Lafayette, Bible Evangelism has been seen recently at Louisiana State University, Louisiana Tech University, University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University.
While some students were either ignoring the group or counter-protesting, some students engaged with them.
Hiro Hinton is a freshman double majoring in visual arts and informatics and expressed their concern and confusion pertaining to the protesters being allowed on campus, since all they are doing is trying to provoke people.
“Well, I understand that it’s a public campus and they don’t really have the ability to kick them out unless they harm a student,” Hinton said.
Senior Associate Dean of Students Gregory Zerangue explained the policy when it comes to these protesters at the university.
“This is a system policy and it’s federal law. Basically, we can’t prohibit them from coming on campus and speaking. Now of course, if it crosses that line and there’s threat or safety involved, we would take action. Or any physical abuse, touching, anything like that. So that just allows them to come and speak on campus. Nothing derogatory and hate speech, anything like inciting violence or riot, anything like that of course would not be allowed,” Zerangue said.
“The fact that they were saying that this person is going to Hell, whatever it may be, it’s not really harassment. We may not agree with their terms, but it’s not defined as harassment. Now, if they said ‘I’m going to beat you up’ or make any verbiage or language that would imply abuse or some type of physical harm or death or something like that. That would be crossing a line,” Zerangue continued.
Doc Theriot is a sophomore majoring in computer science. Theriot is glad to see UL Lafayette students banding together in counter-protest. They usually feel safe on campus, but recent events like the UL Lafayette chapter of Turning Point USA inviting alt-right speaker Jack Posobiec to speak on campus have made them not feel safe on campus. But pointed out all of the positive things the university has done for LGBTQ students.
“But also some of the stuff that UL campus does for the LGBTQ people like the name change policy now it’s really great and Title IX with marching band, I feel super safe as a member of Pride of Acadiana because they make it a point to use preferred names, preferred pronouns,” Theriot said. “But then again, sometimes I don’t because there is still a stigma about being LGBTQ. I don’t think there should be a stigma. But you know, whenever you live in South Louisiana, of course, there is going to be a little bit of a conservative tone to everything.”