If an atheist witnessed any displays of “Christianity” portrayed by the campus evangelists, he or she would be pushed even further away from believing in a god.
According to Wednesday’s Oracle, a 22-year-old junior sociology major claims that on Oct. 12 she was harassed by a street preacher, John M. Kranert, who often voices his faith on the Cooper Hall lawn. The student, who declined to release her name, has since filed an assault complaint against Kranert. On the day of the incident, she said Kranert charged at her, cocked his fist and stopped mere inches from her face before calling her a whore. According to the student, she was fully covered and minding her own business.
She said Kranert demeaned her on prior occasions by saying, “I can tell you’ve been with every man on campus by the way you stand,” and asking if she got her name from Black Entertainment Television because of her caramel complexion. He didn’t know her name, nor did he ask, suggesting the question was purely racist at its roots, according to the Oracle.
This situation presents a fight between free speech and insidious speech. In an earlier column, I defended Andrew Morgan from the University of Florida and his right to free speech, because he put no one in physical danger.
This circumstance, however, is different. The campus evangelists – Kranert, Micah Armstrong and others – have the right to free speech like everyone else in this country. These street preachers have the right to say what they want about the Word of God and the students can respond back, contradicting them or supporting them. Yet when a street preacher – or anyone else – crosses the line and charges at someone, calling them unfounded and derogatory names, he has entered insidious speech territory. Insidious speech is intended to harm and is not protected by the First Amendment.
The most common example is that it’s illegal to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Instead of crying fire, Kranert called a conservatively dressed woman a whore.
Kranert’s alleged actions are a danger to the students he harasses and to himself. He’s asking for trouble. It is a natural reaction to protect oneself from harm, and if he came charging at someone’s face, he was lucky he wasn’t hit or pushed away.
Although this student’s horrific experience is documented by University Police, I’ve personally seen Armstrong in action, insulting others. I’ve seen him tell a Hindi student that she is going to hell because she worships a fake god. I’ve seen him tell a woman to cover her cleavage before she tries to talk to him. I’ve seen him tell a black student that she isn’t going to heaven because of the color of her skin. And he’s told me, as I was defending the Hindi student, that he won’t respect anyone who doesn’t believe in his God.
There has been much speculation among students whether these street preachers are intentionally pushing students to the edge so they can get hit and sue. Regardless of whether this can be empirically proven, I believe it’s true. I was raised Catholic, but I’m not that religious. I never finished reading the Bible and I haven’t been to church in years. The impression that I got from what I do know is that anger and violence will not lead to spiritual unity and it will not make a person a good Christian.
In a handful of places, including Leviticus 19:18, the Bible states: “love thy neighbor.”
Kranert isn’t showing much love, and he isn’t receiving any. It’s hard to love your neighbor when that neighbor is calling you rude names and threatening to harm you.
The verdict: Kranert’s speech, in combination with his actions and choice of words, is insidious speech and therefore not protected by the First Amendment, nor is it permissible by normal moral standards. Moreover, it is a disgrace to the human race and all practicing Christians who are embarrassed by their display.
If anyone is being un-Christlike, it’s Kranert and the other violent street preachers.
Amy Mariani is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.