Last semester, demonstrators from Key of David Christian Center, located near Philadelphia, came to Shippensburg University holding signs with derogatory words about women, non-Christians and the LGBTQ community. Friday, the group showed up again, demonstrating on the lawn outside of Grove Hall.
The group travels around and demonstrates at different schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), Christopher Clark, the associate vice president of operations at SU, said.
The group first came to campus last March, however they had let the university know in advance they would be coming. This time, the group contacted the university an hour before their arrival, and the university had less time to prepare.
The demonstrators, led by Pastor Aden Rusfeldt, spoke about premarital sex, homosexuality, feminism and the afterlife.
Two rings of fence separated the demonstrators and the students, with five to 10 feet in between them. Those gathered around engaged with the demonstrators yelling back or trying to debate. Students led chants and brandished their own signs in response. Others brought Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride Flags.
At 12:24 p.m., soon after the demonstrators arrived, Stephanie Jirard, SU’s Chief Diversity Officer, sent out an email to students briefly addressing the situation. “University administration was notified that a group visiting campus this afternoon may or may not express views that run contrary to our values.” the email said.
The email gave students a link to the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Compliance. It directed recipients to information about how the first amendment is used on state college campuses. Jirard encouraged students to learn about the First Amendment and watch a video that gives tips on engaging with groups on campus that students may disagree with.
Tensions increased and at one point an onlooker began to lean over the fence. The individual began to yell and point at the demonstrators and other onlookers soon walked them away from the area.
Towards the end of the demonstration around 3:20 p.m., Pennsylvania State Police arrived and stood in the background. At 3:30 p.m., the group was escorted into SUPD vehicles and left the lawn.
The story is ongoing and will be updated as new information is acquired.