“Do not engage”: UNF and UPD comment on recent protest against YouTube preachers on the green

Courtney Green, News Editor

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After multiple protests against a preaching group known as Untamed Truth, the University has provided Spinnaker with a statement regarding the group’s right to be there, as well as advice for students.

“Thus far, the conduct is legal and the speech, recordings and other expressive activities are protected by the 1st Amendment and the Campus Free Expression Act,” UNF’s Office of General Counsel said.

The Campus Free Expression Act, which began in 2018, dictates that certain activities like recording and publishing interactions that occur on a public university’s campus are protected. UNF can’t opt out of the Act.

“UNF must abide by the Campus Free Expression Act as it pertains to the expressive activities of all who enter our campus,” the statement continued.

UNF’s Police Department is “aware of the presence of preachers on UNF’s campus” and is typically “present during these events, whether they are visible or not,” along with other campus officials.

“We strive to balance the safety of our community while being legally bound to allow certain expressive activities,” the statement goes on to read. “We would like to advise the campus community that the best way to disempower these individuals on campus is by not engaging with their rhetoric, which thereby gives them a platform.”

And in case you didn’t know, Untamed Truth absolutely has a platform – on Youtube, where they live-stream their 3 to 4 hour sessions preaching on UNF’s campus, Celebration Church, local concerts, and Jax Beach Bars. The group has around 17,600 subscribers and over one-million views on their nearly 200 videos. Their videos have pulled anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 views in the last two months. For their videos at UNF, they average an audience of close to 1,000 – that is 1,000 people who watch every interaction they have with students and encourage the group to continue their work on our campus. 

Recently, when interviewed by Spinnaker, a member of the group said they had been preaching at UNF for two years now, which matches the date of creation for their Youtube channel, July 2017. A quick scroll through the live-stream playback comments on their recent videos of the protests by LGBT students demonstrate how student engagement plays into the group’s platform. Words like “Jezebel” and “THIS IS NASTY WICKED GENERATION” appear when students stop to speak a few words or protest the group. In the lower comment section – though there aren’t as many as the live-stream playback – one individual referred to students as “the demonic spirits in the background.”

Nearly every video on this channel is labeled as “Entertainment.” Other Christian Youtube channels like Girl Defined, God is Gray, and The Transformed Wife tend to label their videos under YouTube’s “People & Blogs” or “Education” category. Whether or not Untamed Truth thinks their preaching practices at UNF are entertainment is unclear just from the label, but protesting the group does appear to get a response from the audience on their channel. In the videos where students are seen protesting and objecting to their message, comments can be found encouraging the group to continue and to even visit other universities.

If you ever feel unsafe or if you believe a group on campus is violating the law, please immediately report the activity to UPD. 

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