Clemson University administrator Shawn Jones stopped a local man from praying on campus with students because he was not doing so in a designated “free speech zone.” The incident happened last Thursday, but school administrators — and the man himself, Robbie Roberts — are speaking out.
Jones felt the move was justified because Roberts was praying next to a sign that said “prayer” and policy states that non-students are restricted to certain campus areas for their full right to free speech.
The incident was documented on video (below) and shows Jones reprimanding Roberts while graduate student Kyra Palange recorded.
“This is not a designated free speech area,” Jones informed them. “You mean there are free speech areas on campus and that the entire campus is not a free speech area?” Palange asked.
Jones confirmed the idea and deemed their prayers “solicitation.”
“As a public and publicly funded university, I did not think Clemson would even have free speech zones,” Palange said in a recent interview with Campus Reform. “I did not think it was legal for them to remove a non-student from campus simply for communicating with students.”
William Turton, another Clemson University student, chimed in on the unfairness of the situation. “This is a public space on a public university, so the idea that non-students aren’t allowed free speech on certain areas of campus is unreasonable,” he said. “It’s a stretch to say that a man praying is the same as someone setting up shop and selling stuff on campus. [Roberts] wasn’t going out and running up to students and asking them to pray with him, the man was not being disruptive in any way at all.”
However, Clemson Vice President for University Relations Mark Land wanted to make clear that the rule only applies to non-students; a Clemson student praying alone would not have been bothered.
“Those individuals or groups not affiliated with the university are asked to follow a simple procedure to register their activity with the university so that it can be directed to an appropriate location, such as one of the university’s designated free speech zones,” he said in a statement. “Individuals and groups affiliated with the university are not limited to free speech zones when they wish to exercise their rights to expression.”
According to Campus Reform, Roberts was initially going to cooperate with administrators but has since changed his way of thinking.
He went on to explain that the place where he was sitting was “not a building,” “not a restricted area,” but “basically a park,” calling it “one of the least possible restricted places as far as any kind of theoretical restrictions on freedom of speech” goes.
“The notion that they say that is a non-reservable space? They just made it up,” he added, visibly frustrated with university’s arbitrary speech zone designations.
Watch the full altercation below and tell us what you think about the situation.
[H/T: Campus Reform]