Following Wednesday’s controversial demonstration on Shippensburg University’s academic quad, members of the SU Christian community decided to respond in a show of unity with the campus on Friday.
Wednesday’s events had the campus buzzing after a self-proclaimed Christian man visited and started provoking students, who quickly formed a crowd around the man. As the crowd grew, the man became more focused on certain groups of people — the LGBT community and women, to name a couple — and tensions escalated.
Police were eventually called to the scene to prevent the situation from becoming violent, and separated the man from the students with metal barriers. The man was finally escorted off campus by police and followed by a large trail of students after more than an hour of protest.
Student Alex Lochner sought to form a counter-protest to show that the views expressed by the man do not represent those of the greater Christian community. Lochner said he believed that Christians had a responsibility to speak real truth in opposition to hate.
Lochner is a member of the Christian group FUSE, and said it struck a chord when the man targeted students.
“I felt motivated to organize this event because I could feel the hurt that the man from Wednesday had caused under the guise of Christianity,” Lochner said.
Lochner got campus minister Matthew Ramsay involved in the process, and together they organized the event. The idea was to counter the opinions the man attacked to show the true Christian perspective on those topics.
“We were wrestling with should we do a public response, so we thought, ‘Yeah, let’s do something publicly to respond to that message,’” Ramsay said. “One of the messages in particular for the LGBT community was that you are welcome here on campus and that you’re loved. Most people here are for you, not against you.”
Members from both FUSE and Disciplemakers Christian Fellowship participated in the demonstration. They were not, however, the only students who participated.
Among those holding signs were several members of SAFE, the LGBT group on campus. Current members and one of the group’s former presidents participated at certain points during the counter-protest.
“We have messages that are about love and caring for students,” said Ramsay.
Many members of SAFE passed the demonstration and were thankful for the message and the voice provided by the protestors. They were glad someone else was speaking out and standing up for them.
Some of the signs had messages like, “Jesus has open arms to the LGBT+ community” and “#TakeBackTheQuad.” There were also “Black Lives Matter” signs and one sign addressing evolution.
There was also a pledge held by Ramsay who encouraged students to sign and say, “We pledge to love and protect our neighbor, to be a campus united.” The majority of students passing by on their way to and from class were glad to sign, with only a few students rejecting the invitation.
The sign garnered more than 200 signatures from both students and faculty members. The group stayed on the quad for three hours, and at several instances there was a line of people waiting to add their names to the board.
People passing by thanked the group for speaking out against the man and his actions.
Lochner was pleased with the response, and said, “It was fantastic to see students and faculty willing to respond and use their freedom of speech to represent the truths of their beliefs.”