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The Mass Media

Why does UMass Boston allow anti-LGBTQ speech on campus?

Religious preachers deliver their message on the UMass Boston terrace between Campus Center and Wheatley Hall on Friday, April 27, 2022.

On Wednesday, April 27, a group of preachers gathered together outside of the Campus Center in between Wheatley and McCormack, equipped with religious signs and Bible tracts to give away to students passing by on their way to class. Students who have been going to UMass Boston since before the pandemic likely remember this group who used to infamously preach on top of the concrete, giving themselves a platform to be above the students as they forced them to listen to their rhetoric. 

I decided to approach these so-called preachers to ask questions about their message after other students witnessed them saying, “This is sick! Sick! They are sinners, homosexuals,” when a LGBTQ+ couple kissed in front of their preachings. 

Each preacher I spoke to had something different to say when I asked what church they were affiliated with, if they were affiliated with any. The man who organized the event said that they were not affiliated with a specific church; the group met through other street preaching events in North Carolina. Another preacher mentioned they were part of Declaring Truth Ministries, and that they are a spinoff of the Kerusso Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La.

The preachers were mostly from different parts of North Carolina with a few from Baton Rouge, La., and they all drove to Boston to preach on various campuses and public parks. Most of the preachers took time off of work to come to Boston, while the organizer of the event does this full-time. Obviously not a profitable living situation, he mentioned he was part owner of a school in Florida and then sold it 11 years ago in order to pursue preaching full-time to people who are out in the public and college students going to class. He said he had been to UMass Boston at least 15 times in the last ten years. Basically, this man goes to places that he knows will be populated with people to preach what he believes to be the “truth,” along with other people he’s met who are entitled enough to believe that forcing their beliefs on others is somehow helpful and will ultimately get them enough brownie points to get into heaven—all the while actively preaching against LGBTQ+ students.  

The preachers had different answers and viewpoints on a lot of different things—such as their outlook on the LGBTQ+ community—so it was confusing for them to gather together and say it’s the same message, when ultimately it’s not. They also had clearly no communication about what they were planning on doing going forward, because the first preacher said they’d be back on campus this semester, while the organizer said that they wouldn’t be back until the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semester. 

When I asked the first preacher about his reasoning for their anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, he told me to look up 1 Corinthians 6, and said the verse says “love is to hear truth,” when in fact that is a bible verse about lawsuits. The verse he was referring to was Ephesians 4:15, to “speak the truth in love,” which is also not the same message that he was putting forth. Nowhere in The Bible does it say that you have to hear a certain “truth” to feel love. It seems that the preachers just said random verse numbers that came to mind to paint an illusion that what they were saying was true, and they were an expert on the fact.

A preacher I spoke to said that they had visited Harvard earlier that week to preach the same message, and they were met with “less excitement, and more apathy. UMass Boston is not apathetic.” For someone who was actively being yelled at to leave the campus by a group of over 30 students, I found that to be a peculiar thing to say. It seemed to be clear to everyone but the group of preachers that they were not welcome on the UMass Boston campus. They continued to preach from 11 a.m. to after 3 p.m.   

When I asked the preachers if they had to obtain a permit to be on campus at UMass Boston, they said they didn’t. They very righteously mentioned that they called Campus Police to let them know they were there, although they didn’t have to. In reality, they likely called the police because they were scared of all the backlash they were receiving. When I approached Campus Police to ask them the same question, they informed me that the group actually did obtain a permit to be on campus, which was approved by Student Affairs. 

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobes have got to go” was chanted by a crowd of UMass Boston students nearby as the preachers held their signs and attempted to hand out flyers and Bible tracts. The students had a speaker that was playing Lil Nas X, Cardi B and more. It was obvious that the students were unhappy with the preachers being there, and they were attempting to drown out their hateful messages in the most effective way possible. 

When I asked the organizer how he felt about the student’s response to their preachings, he said “the response [was] typical of UMass Boston students, the homosexual community likes to come out and give trouble. They’re no more or less of a sinner than anyone else.” I didn’t really understand what he meant by this quote. So they’re sinners, but we’re all sinners? Make it make sense, please.

In response to these preachings, UMass Boston’s Queer Student Center posted a statement on Instagram: “These individuals have also been known to preach racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia; spreading harmful misconceptions and posing a threat to those who are part of these underserved communities—the very communities that are the heart and soul of [UMass Boston] and made this campus what it is today.” At the same time these preachers were spewing speech against the LGBTQ+ community, the university hosted a spectacle in Campus Center promoting their rebrand of their “diverse campus.” 

I have a genuine question for the university: Why use our diversity to your advantage when you want our money, yet allow our campus to be infiltrated by people who are not a part of our community to promote hate rhetoric that actively harms UMass Boston students? Why do we have to share the space we pay for with random preachers who are condemning our life choices and who we love or who we are?

About the Contributor
Grace Smith, Editor-in-Chief