JSU students stand together against visiting ministry on campus

Courtesy of Jamie Brock

Abigail Harrison,News Editor

JSU students were outraged by an evangelistic couple that gathered on campus earlier this month with offensive signs targeted at women.

The signs, associated with the WALKabout Jesus ministry, contained sexist ideology, such as statements like “Women are weaker than men.” One sign in particular gained a lot of attention on social media pages. The sign quoted, “Young women: You don’t need college; You need faith, a Bible, and a good cookbook.”

The misogynistic messages of these signs caused women to voice their opinions against the couple. Many voices were heard on Facebook where some posts about the signs received hundreds of shares. 

One Facebook post by Lillie Holderfield voiced how she felt seeing the offensive signs targeted at her education.

“Not a great feeling being a woman on a college campus and being screamed at that I don’t actually need the education I am paying for. Jacksonville, do better,” Holderfield said.

The WALKabout Jesus ministry is known for travelling around campuses and events to spread their evangelism. College students from all over Alabama have stories about being harassed at school by the ministry. The harassment has been so severe that one individual started a petition to get WALKabout Jesus banned from the University of North Alabama.

Many people are wondering why the individuals were allowed to set up on campus and harass students that are paying to peacefully attend class.

The university released a statement to students via email on September 15 that outlined the freedom of speech legislature and how it applies to the individuals on the quad.

“Please understand that these speakers’ presence on campus is not endorsed by JSU. However, as a public institution, JSU upholds the First Amendment rights afforded by the Constitution,” the statement read.

The email also encouraged students to not get hostile with the individuals and to clear space on the sidewalks for them to avoid accidents. 

Several of the people who encountered the individuals believe the university could have done more to support students in a time of harassment. Jamie Brock, sophomore at JSU, was at the event and not only believes that they should have been encouraged by officials to leave but also claims the individuals parked in faculty parking spots but received no ticket from university police.

Though JSU students could not control the individuals’ beliefs, they could control how they responded to the harassment. Instead of believing the words on the signs, students of all gender identities came together to uplift one another with their own encouraging statements.

“I respect the couple for wanting to spread what they believe in, but they were doing it the wrong way,” Brock said. “I love how all of the students came together to stand up for their beliefs as well.”

A small counter-protest was held by students carrying signs with feminist messages such as, “My shorts bother you? Gouge your eyes out.” This sign referenced biblical text from Matthew 5:29 to show the hypocrisy in the evangelists’ signs.

Zavius Kidd, SGA Chaplain at JSU, also commented on the individuals’ harmful and inaccurate religious statements. He told students, “You can’t draw people [to religion] by condemning them and judging them.”

Instead, Kidd encouraged people to spread love and kindness on campus to counteract the negativity. He started this movement of positivity by assuring women that they are an essential part of the JSU campus.

“I want to encourage every woman out here today that you’re not just a cook, you’re not just a baby maker. You are important. You are somebody,” Kidd said.

After the couple left JSU, they visited the University of Alabama in Birmingham to spread their message. According to UAB Blazer Media Co, an altercation happened between a student and the evangelist Daniel Rusk on September 15. UAB police investigated the altercation, and Rusk was arrested.

UAB released a similar statement to students about freedom of speech laws. A statement from John Jones, Vice President of student affairs, read, “UAB must allow and protect any individual’s First Amendment rights to express themselves in a manner that is not disruptive to our educational mission.”