By Liz Trudel, Staff Writer
On the first day of classes last Tuesday, USM students were met by an evangelist on the Portland campus. The traveling speaker spoke against students’ religion, clothing, sexual orientation and gender identity based on his religious beliefs.
The speaker, who identified himself as Daniel Rusk, commenced his demonstration on the lawn between Luther Bonney and Payson Smith. He held up a sign portraying messages that he proclaimed to be direct views of the Christian faith, “YOUR Whoredom has caused YOU to err. REPENT BELIEVE the GOSPEL! Hosea 4:12 and TIME is SHORT walk about JESUS.”
When asked by a group of students about his purpose, he responded with, “A Bible believing Christian, believes the word to be true and takes it seriously when it says to go to all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” he said. “I prayed about what part of the world I should go to today, and God sent me to Luther Bonney Hall today to tell you to believe the gospel, to turn from your sin, and to choose Jesus Christ, because that is the real life and everything else is vanity of vanities, that says the preacher.”
Rusk repetitively proclaimed that students would burn in hell if they did not align their life to his perception of the Christian faith.
Rusk stated that on the days prior that he was in east Pennsylvania, and has been traveling the country preaching the gospel and delivering his “message from God.”
Concerned students and faculty members contacted USM public safety in an attempt to have Rusk removed from the premises, deeming his behavior to be disruptive in the course of maintaining a positive and inclusive academic environment for all students.
Noel March, USM Chief of Police, and Officer Russell Swann arrived at the scene and informed Rusk of USM’s newly implemented policy that requires campus speakers to obtain a permit prior to arriving on campus.
On March 19, 2018, USM’s public speaking policy was enacted. The policy requires invited campus speakers, presenters, or performers to seek a permit and to be approved by; president Glen Cummings, Provost or Chief Business Officer and the Board of Trustees, prior to arriving on campus. However it does not specifically mention guidelines pertaining to preachers or protesters, so Rusk was allowed to continue with his demonstration since he was not an invited speaker.
The policy states that invited speakers are allowed to express themselves freely on USM’s campus as long as they abide by the campus speakers policy which is as follows:
“Assuming there is adequate time to plan for necessary security, approval to proceed with a requested event will not be unreasonably withheld absent clear evidence of a certain and imminent threat of (i) harm to or violence against the campus community, (ii) unreasonably disruption of its operations, or (iii) interference with its ability to offer its academic programs.”
March conveyed that USM is a campus that supports and promotes an immensely diverse range of perspectives.
In response to Rusk and his viewpoints, March stated, “Everything that the speaker has done here in front of Luther Bonney Hall thus far has been perfectly legal and is protected speech under the First Amendment.”
March noted that Rusk submitted the application for a permit shortly after his arrival on Tuesday. “USM is a public university, and Mr. Rusk was speaking in a public space,” March said. “Anyone else would receive the same accommodation regardless of their message, so long as their words and actions are covered as protected speech under the First Amendment.
Chief March and Officer Swann remained on the premises to ensure the safety and well-being of the students and the speaker as well as to ensure the speakers’ abidance by the campus policy. Rusk continued his demonstration throughout the remainder of the week.