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UNF Spinnaker

Yelling zealots have same rights as students

Every so often, the Green is littered with religious zealots who loudly proclaim their teachings – specifically what becomes of heretics, whoever they might be.

These preachers can be seen in straw hats, holding eye-catching signs visible from great distances.

And they are never far away from the hoards of students who surround them and urge them to go home and never return.

What is most fascinating about this scene, surprisingly, is not the manner in which the preachers convey their messages but the reaction of their opposition.

Similar to a crowd of children, students hoot and holler about the fanatics’ belief-systems containing very often insulting ideas, all the while forgetting the cardinal amendment of the Constitution: freedom of speech.

It is unlikely the same crowd, whose frustration with these preachers runs deep, would not allow another human being ­– a fellow American – his or her First Amendment rights.

In fact, the same liberties allowed to the preachers yelling apply to the retaliatory students. In angering the masses, these zealots exercises their rights just as the students – in demanding his departure – exercise theirs.

Yet there is still a problem with the concept of forcing another person to leave UNF’s campus based on his or her religious belief.

There is no law against name-calling or belly-aching within the forum of national conversation, which is why there is a guaranteed right to do so in the Constitution.

Though one party of the zealot/student debate might seem much more intolerant than the other, one begins to wonder which side that might be.

Regardless of whether students agree with the preachers’ teachings – or even if they’ve called them hell-bound personally, one should admire a person with enough conviction to stand in front of crowds of people who frantically deny their ideas.

E-mail Fatima Hussein at [email protected].

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  • R

    RyanDec 1, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Megan – That’s limiting free speech. Who is to say what words should be limited? Who determines what words are moral or not? What if someone in power thinks being gay is immoral, would you be willing to have them tell that person their speech is immoral and they are not allowed to express their opinion? What if a “majority” of students sign a petition banning gay students from expressing their opinions. Would you be comfortable with this? Of course not. That’s the greatness of free speech-anyone can express themselves and say whatever they believe. Once you start putting limitations on this there will be a slippery slope of what is considered “moral” and “immoral” speech and thus completely abuse the First Amendment.

  • M

    MeganNov 26, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    The University may want to look into the Fighting Words Doctrine which is a limitation on the First Amendment. Since students are already yelling at these zealots to leave campus, and the students are the reason why the University exists in the first place, then the zealots are “outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.” If enough students sign a petition to have the zealots removed from the campus, and the courts rule in the students’ favor, then there is a solution to this growing problem.


  • M

    MeganNov 26, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Although a portion of the University is federally funded, it is also privately funded through alumni and donor contributions. If the majority of the University’s faculty, staff, and students feel as though this preacher is crossing over the line into their own personal space, and the preacher is not a student, faculty, or staff member at UNF then he should be asked to remove himself from University grounds and camp on the sidewalk at the entrances to the campus just as any protestor would be asked to do. If he wishes to exercise his religion through prayer and the reading of scriptures, that is fine as it does not affect the lives of the other students, but when his words are condemnatory or insulting to others who have differing religious beliefs, then he is stepping outside the lines of freedom of speech. I doubt he would be happy if someone walked into the middle of his/her church and started insulting his religion or the way he lives. And if anybody did, the police would be there immediately to remove him or her.