By Travis Reynolds
Even though my mind has been clouded by pounds of turkey, an extended weekend and the dull, mind-scrambling mental beatdown of too much Final Fantasy X-2, I’ve come back to Eastern with one pre-Thanksgiving memory floating at the tip of my mind.I saw our First Amendment rights taking a roundhouse kick in the face, firsthand.
On Thursday, Nov. 15, I worked at the all-day Milton reading for five and a half hours throughout the day.
One of my jobs that day entailed standing in the vestibule of the Meditation Chapel, giving instructions to people coming to the reading and handing out attendance proofs.
Despite the noise of cell phones, leaf blowers and conversations mingling outside, I could clearly hear a familiar voice shouting Christianity at a passerby.
A glance through the windows confirmed my theory : Preacher Guy had returned.
It’s safe to say most of us have seen or heard this man in action.
With a big bushy beard and the stereotypical country preacher voice, Preacher Guy stands outside on any given morning and shouts the word of God to anybody who will – and everybody who won’t – listen.
This guy criticized me for bowing my head to him after I went to get one of his flyers out of pity. He then proceeded to preach against bowing to other people saying, “You bow to Jesus.”
Preacher Guy stepped on my last nerve with that, but I just went back to the reading.
I’m a Christian, but I’ve never been too keen on judgmental Christianity; plus, I figured that Preacher Guy had every right to say what he wanted to, so I just left him alone.
After all, Memorial Plaza is purported to be one of Eastern’s designated free speech zones. Since I enjoy my First Amendment rights, everyone else should too.
Later in the day, I saw a pair of Eastern police officers approaching Preacher Guy. After several minutes of talking, they left with him.
Now, I’m not sure if they forced him to leave, but I can guarantee someone called in a complaint on him… again.
And in an institution of higher learning, I can’t imagine what kind of enlightened individual would do that.
Several weeks ago, I sat down with your student body president and a group of students to talk about the First Amendment and what it means to Eastern.
During that conversation, the student body president pointed out that the area around the Meditation Chapel is one of Eastern’s designated “free speech zones.”
As idiotic as the concept is of limiting free speech to special zones, I went with it.
I can understand the reasoning for it, even if I don’t agree with the limitation.
Back on topic, kids. The simple fact is that Preacher Guy shouts from the rooftops in a free speech zone.
People who cringe to hear that man crying his beliefs to the skies have every right to not listen.
People who decry religion in general have every right to ignore him. But they do not have the right to silence him.
I think anyone who wants to claim Eastern as an institution of higher learning has no business shouting down someone else’s beliefs.
College is not about taking 128 credit hours of classes, most of which mean nothing to our professional lives.
College is about learning patience, tolerance and the dozens of other interpersonal skills we need to excel as human beings.
And don’t think I’m supporting Preacher Guy just because I’m Christian.
His beliefs are far too hardcore for my tastes.
To be honest, he’s so judgmental with it that sometimes I feel like calling a complaint on him myself.
But I don’t.
And I don’t call complaints in to black cultural speakers or events either. Or gay pride rallies.
I’m not black. I’m not gay. These issues don’t speak to my beliefs, but I know better than to think I could silence them because of it.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects these events.
As it does Preacher Guy’s religious tirades.
I can’t think of a better way to sum up my thoughts on the subject than with a line from one of my all-time favorite movies, “The American President.”
“You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.