North Texas Daily

Student works with SGA to create anti-hate speech organization

Student works with SGA to create anti-hate speech organization

Student works with SGA to create anti-hate speech organization
March 28
01:26 2019

A group of UNT students are looking to create an organization with the guidance of the Student Government Association to address the preacher who frequents Highland Street through nonviolent protesting tactics to combat what they say is hate speech.

The preacher, who hails from Heritage Grace Community Church in Frisco, has sparked debate over the years with his preachings.

Environmental science sophomore Lyle Beasley said he considers the preacher’s teachings to be a form of hate speech.

“Whenever I walk by him or I see people coming away from him, I see this sort of discontentment or discomfort that [students] have,” Beasley said. “There are other evangelicals on campus who don’t necessarily have such a negative impact as he does because he’s malicious in his intent. He directly attacks people’s beliefs that don’t align with this. His core message is trying to get people to see that what he believes is true.”

What Beasley said is more problematic, however, is not the statements the preacher makes, but his treatment of students looking to engage in a discussion with him.

“People will come up to the microphone and try to engage him on topics that he doesn’t necessarily want to talk about and instead of asking them politely to move away from the microphone, he’ll just turn off the microphone and talk over them,” Beasley said. “He was asked why his sect of Christianity is the right sect and he said ‘because I know it is.’ It doesn’t make it sound like he’s trying to convince people that what he says is true, he’s trying to convince them that what they believe is false.”

Despite knowing many students on campus see the preacher as a negative force on campus, the university is legally unable to keep him from standing on the sidewalk adjacent to Highland street.

Maureen McGuinness, Dean of Students, said the university does not condone the preacher’s statements.

“The preacher from Heritage Grace expresses his free speech rights, which are constitutionally protected,” McGuinness said. “When the preachers are on the sidewalks adjacent to the street of the grassy area between the sidewalk and the street, this falls under city of Denton property, not the university’s.”

Since the university cannot get involved, Lyle looked to SGA to help him create an anti-hate speech organization and enlisted the help of junior senator Shane Warren, who said he believes the preacher’s statements threaten Christian communities on campus.

“I think his whole thing is to turn Christians into bigots and try to equate the two,” Warren said. “It’s telling people who are just trying to enjoy their faith and what it brings to their lives that they have to be bigots and hateful people, and he’s trying to twist it and say that’s a loving thing to do.”

While SGA has noted the legal restrictions they and the university face, they are assisting Beasley in informally addressing the preacher.

“We’re really just giving him the information he needs to do something,” Warren said. “For the most part, it’s been navigating the red tape at UNT for starting a student organization. It’s like, ‘you need this many people to start a student organization, you need an adviser, this is what you can do in terms of counter speech without applying for a permit, this is the kind of thing you do need a permit for.’”

With certain guidelines set in place, Beasley said he intends to use the student organization to stand near the preacher to detract attention away from him, rather than directly protest him.

“This is a tactic that many, many people use, and even though I may not agree with it entirely, it’s very effective,” Beasley said. “It’s a move where when we see someone about to engage him, we engage them instead. Instead of listening to him, and giving him the attention, [we will] encourage them to take in mind why he’s doing it, the concept of religion, the concept of people being of different religions, and where they fit in that grand scheme and how they feel about that.”

While Beasley said he is not looking to directly protest the preacher, some students disagree with Beasley’s plans.

“The best thing to do about this guy is to just ignore him,” computer science junior Matt Robinson said. “While students have a right to protest this preacher, just as the preacher has the right to preach, I think giving this guy attention — good or bad — only encourages him.”

Beasley said he is hopeful of students wanting to get involved in the prospective organization despite some of the criticism he has received.

I did an informal poll on Reddit and in person, and I asked as large of a group of people as I could whether or not they believe that what he is doing is right, or whether or not we should do something about it,” Beasley said. “Why wouldn’t we really sort of try to get people involved on campus, members of the student body who he is addressing, who disagree with him, to get involved in this active stance? It just seems like there’s a large pool of people that are willing, and there’s no reason not to take advantage of that willingness.”

The anti-hate speech organization is still in the early stages of becoming an official organization, but Warren said he is hoping students can create an avenue on campus to discuss their differences.

“I think ideally nobody would respond to him, but I don’t know how unsafe his presence makes students feel,” Warren said. “In the long term, I would like to see a space where people of different theological ideas can come together, discuss theology and spirituality and work together to figure out what they want to do about it.”

Featured Image: The Highland Street preacher speaks to students outside the Business Leadership Building on March 27, 2019. Image by: Abby Esau.

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Brooke Colombo

Brooke Colombo

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  1. Wally
    Wally March 29, 16:41

    You need to define hate. You also need to be truthful in your article. I have 3 hours of live Facebook you can check out and you will see many kids getting to share the mic and ask questions. The ones who get cut off are the ones who act like junior high kids and use the F word or yell out words describing female genetalia.
    It’s not hate speach just because you disagree with it. You’ld think college kids would understand that. By your definition, Jesus used a lot of hate speach. You may not believe this, but it is actually loving to warn someone when they are in danger. We come out there because we love the students.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Preacher
    Preacher March 29, 18:59

    Sadly this article is a gross misinterpretation of my ministry on campus. My ministry has been supported by many in the student body for years and there have been several students who have directly attributed their conversion to Christianity to the preaching. Countless atheist and agnostic students thank me on a regular basis for bringing these issues up and for creating a conversation about worldviews. Calling my intent malicious is slander and unfounded. Malicious intent is unseen and assumes to know the unknowable. I hope the author of this article as well as the student seeking to oppose my preaching would be at least willing to talk to me directly. You know where I’ll be 🙂

    Reply to this comment
  3. Chris
    Chris April 02, 13:40

    It sounds like the author of the article didn’t want to engage in a sound and civil dialogue with the preacher. That’s the problem with our society, when we don’t like what we hear, we want to shut down the opposing side because we’re unable or unwilling to be reasonable and talk things out. I should clarify that disagreeing with someone is it indicative of hating the person. I’d encourage the author of this article to approach the preacher and behave like an adult and talk about this. Either that or keep walking, but stop trying to oppress his first amendment right.

    Reply to this comment
  4. brett
    brett April 02, 21:59

    and this is why when UNT calls me (being an alum) for a donation I say no… I won’t support the anti-american socialists that have overrun the campuses of this country.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Zach
    Zach April 03, 01:12

    Before you start claiming one side is spouting hate speech, you really should have gotten his take. Journalists are supposed to give both sides an opportunity to share their story.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Thelitbarbarian
    Thelitbarbarian April 04, 12:11

    Anti-abrahamic bigots

    Reply to this comment
  7. Christian
    Christian April 06, 11:48

    I’ve always passed by this Preacher and there is nothing insightful he has to offer. His deameanor speaks volumes about his intent and it’s not to “warn” people of anything but rather lambast them. Masking yourself in Christianity’s name does not make you a Christian.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Ant1k
    Ant1k April 07, 20:11

    The best preacher of this school. Students should be grateful to have such a preacher. I would love for Emilio to live in my city, I would listen to him all day preach

    Reply to this comment

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