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The Centurion

If Rabble-Rousing Reverend Returns, Expect Resistance

Hal Conte

Hal Conte

Madison Helsen

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Bucks students and staff, still fuming over a series of appearances by a fringe Christian hate group over the past few semesters, are trying to find ways to prevent the group from causing harm and potentially violence on campus.

The group, led on campus by a man who styles himself as the “Radical Reverend,” as well as “Pastor Aden,” has appeared in Newtown multiple times, creating confusion and drawing ire from most students. The Reverend brings his family and children, often wielding signs denouncing minorities, women, gamers, “witches,” and other groups who the cult claims are “hell-bound.”

According to Newtown PA Now, a local news website, the Reverend and his family moved to Bucks County last year. He holds thinly attended meetings and posts videos on the internet titled “How to Rebuke Harry Potter Fans,” and has scribbled various propaganda pamphlets describing supposed “subtle ways the devil tries to make you numb to Christ and how to avoid [them].”

The Reverend’s organization, called “Christian Interviews,” has preached at many other colleges nationwide, including Temple University, and also held a “shame parade” in New Hope last May. Social media accounts associated with Christian Interviews feature grainy videos claiming to “expose” Islam, as well as LGBTQIA+ people, anarchists, and the Clintons.

The group’s account also pays close attention to local media stories about their campus visits, saying that even negative press is good for the group because their message is spread through photos of their signs.

On campus, the Reverend usually tries to sling malicious slurs at students who pass by, trying to get a rise out of people. Many of the students get extremely offended by his signs and hateful preaching, and have called on the college to stop him from coming.

That’s easier said than done. The First Amendment protects free speech in public areas, which prevents an outright ban of the Reverend and his associates from campus. He is usually surrounded by police officers in case things get out of hand. Gabby Martins, a childhood education major, is outraged by the group’s extremist messaging, and believes there shouldn’t be someone on campus screaming at students. “I don’t know if he is trying to turn people to Christ, but that is not the way to do it. If anything, he is going to turn people away.”

Charlie Groth, a professor of social and behavioral science at Bucks, describes this as a tough situation for the college. Bucks is a governmental body and a public institution, which allows the hate group to visit the campus. “The Bucks community cares about the diversity of our student body. His negative speech and insults go against or policy values, although freedom of speech is a policy value at Bucks. He is mixing usual kinds of free speech with harassment. We want our students to know he is never invited, and the best thing to do is ignore him.” Groth explained.

She added: “Students have free speech as well, and that is something nobody can take away from them.” The faculty and staff do their part to monitor students when the extremist group comes. They want to make sure nothing gets out of hand, and prevent students from getting themselves into trouble. “We care about our students, and want them to be able to concentrate on their education.”

Some Bucks students have other ideas about what can be done to stop the preacher. Urvish Gajjar, a criminal justice major, believes he should have to get permission from the school first. “I think it’s bad he is here, and forces his religion on people. The authorities of Bucks should check his material, and make sure it is appropriate.”

Gajjar fumed how the Christian Interviews group brings disturbances to the campus, and really heats up the atmosphere in a bad way. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to get rid of the extremists. America protects the practice of religion, even when the practice can be aggressive. This gives the group religious freedom to express their views, and still be constitutionally protected.

The group’s leader promises “hellfire” to students who disagree with his views, and even gets his own children to protest with him. The children were seen multiple times wearing T-shirts with vulgar language accusing students of being “perverts”.

It may be impossible to stop the Reverend from weaponing his words of hate on campus, so many faculty, including Ethel Rackin, a professor of literature, advocate ignoring him and his cult. As much as students and faculty dread his appearances, freedom of speech comes with the good and the bad.

Groth said that Bucks faculty, administrators, and staff will monitor the situation if and when the hate cult returns to campus, and will help students who may feel compelled to respond to his outbursts. She said counselors are available for students who feel targeted by his rants.

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If Rabble-Rousing Reverend Returns, Expect Resistance