A group of Clemson University students intend to hold a rally Friday in the area where a community evangelist was told last week that he was violating a campus policy.
Robby Roberts was holding a “Prayer” sign at Trustee Park when he was approached last Thursday by Shawn Jones, the university’s assistant director for client services.
“This is not a designated free speech area,” Jones said, according to a video of the encounter that Clemson graduate student Kyra Palange posted Sunday on Facebook. Jones explains in the video that Roberts would need to follow “proper procedures” to use a designated area on campus.
The university issued a statement Tuesday to “clarify the situation for everyone in the Clemson community.”
“First and most importantly, Clemson does not prohibit prayer on our campuses,” according to the statement.
But the statement also notes that Clemson has rules for individuals or groups not affiliated with the university that are necessary to maintain “an effective and safe learning environment for our students.”
Roberts was “politely informed” that he could remain “if he would simply remove his sign,” according to the statement.
“He was also told that if he wanted to erect a sign and invite a gathering he would need to reserve one of the areas of campus designated as available to the public for this type of activity or gathering,” according to the statement.
Contending that the university’s policy is unconstitutional, students with the WeRoar Clemson group are planning a Rally With Robby from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at Trustee Park.
Clemson officials will not interfere with the rally Friday, university spokeswoman Robin Denny said.
“The students will be able to gather at Trustee Park,” she said.
WeRoar Clemson describes itself as a “movement” that seeks to “promote freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas on campus.” The group has scheduled provocative conservative Breitbart News tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the university in October.
In an email Tuesday, the group belittled the statement issued by university officials regarding last week’s encounter with Roberts.
“They will attempt to make it seem like they are listening to our concerns, but all they will really do is treat us like children that have to be manipulated and pacified while they continue to create and enforce arbitrary policies,” according to the email.
The group also has posted a video of an interview with Roberts on its Facebook page.
“Clemson University has made up policies which restrict the church, which is an eternal organization, from operating and because they arbitrarily made up these policies, they have raised these policies up above the name of the Lord and they have exulted them,” Roberts says in the video.
“They don’t care one whiff about the name of Jesus. What they care about is the name of Clemson and that to my God is offensive,” he added. “Clemson University has ignored the Lord God.”