Philadelphia religious group disrupts “I Heart UD Day” with hate speech
BY , EXECUTIVE EDITOR, , MANAGING NEWS EDITOR AND , ASSISTANT MOSAIC EDITOR
At the third annual “I Heart UD Day,” students gorged on their favorite UDairy flavors, competed for prizes and chatted with administrators, all while being condemned to hell.
A protest materialized on The Green Tuesday afternoon, with a small group of self-proclaimed born-again Christians rebuking minority groups, non-Christians, homosexuals and everything in-between.
The group’s apparent leader, “Pastor Aden,” is currently the pastor at The Key of David Christian Center, located in Philadelphia. According to Google Maps, the property on 1437 Christian Street — the address listed on the Key of David website — belongs instead to Ebenezer Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which did not return phone calls from The Review.
Pastor Aden also runs a separate website, christianinterviews.com, which has over 300,000 likes on Facebook.
When asked why he chose to bring his group to the university, “Pastor Aden” said that it was due to students not having finals this week, adding that the group might return tomorrow.
“The only thing worse than an homo is a lying homo,” an organizer said through a microphone. “Two girls having sex does not make a baby. Sex is for a man and woman in holy matrimony. That’s God’s way. It’s sick, it’s disgusting, twisted, if you’re a homosexual or a straight fornicator, repent. You’re going to die in your sin and go to hell.”
A nearby student offered a quick rebuttal, proudly proclaiming “I’m a lying homo!”
The demonstration and accompanying disorder occurred no more than thirty feet away from “I Heart UD Day,” an event that UD Student Alumni Ambassadors (UDSAA) plan annually, which aims to educate students about engagement and philanthropy, according to UDSAA junior Abigail Hidalgo. The event included music and food, in addition to the UDairy truck.
While the protest originated on The Green, which is private university property, police forced the group to relocate to the public property of the East Delaware Avenue sidewalk. Police officers surrounded the area, but the protest was allowed to continue under the First Amendment, which protects the right to freedom of expression. Fences were eventually put up around the organizers at approximately 3:30 p.m. to keep all groups safe from traffic.
University of Delaware Police Department (UDPD) Chief of Police, Patrick Ogden, said the decision to bring in the barricades was a safety measure for all parties.
“We brought in some of these bike racks, and just tried to separate the two groups so that we didn’t have any physical confrontation,” he said. “And the other concern that we had was we didn’t want anybody to walk out into the street and get struck by a vehicle.”
Ogden said that he was grateful for the students’ cooperation, commending their respectfulness in following police instructions.
The organizers, equipped with signs displaying messages such as “women turn away from lesbianism, immodesty, being flirtatious, lust and vanity,” targeted students individually with offensive remarks.
“She [a religious organizer] asked me if I was a Christian, and I said yes,” freshman Ayomide Adeoti said. “She said no you’re not, because of the way you dress. She told me ‘you’re a harlot, you’re a whore.’”
However, student opposition quickly drowned out the audibility and visibility of the religious organizers, with a mass of students forming and waving signs saying “God loves everybody,” and “UD hates hate speech.” More signs quickly emerged from notes scribbled on lined paper, followed by the addition of painted wood and cardboard signs.
President Dennis Assanis appeared in the midst of the disorder, commenting on the “I Heart UD” event.
“I’m delighted to be here on the ‘I Heart UD Day’ to celebrate the Blue Hen spirit,” Assanis said. “The community and everything the students exhibit by being involved in these activities that we offer… They’re wonderful people, they’re good believers in society and will give back to the school through their time, talent and philanthropy over the years. That’s the kind of community we stand for, united and together.”
One of the head religious organizers, after yelling at a frustrated student and summoning the police over, contested that the group was not protesting, but rather preaching the Gospel.
“It’s not hate rhetoric,” the man said. “Jesus was offensive. John the Baptist was offensive. We’re just here to spread the Gospel.”
The organizer said that the group, while staging similar events across the country, normally appears on college campuses in Philadelphia, but came to the university today because students, unlike at other universities, are not in the midst of final examinations.
Regarding the protest, Dean of Students Jose-Luis Riera said that the religious organizers were stirring unrest on university property prior to being relocated.
“There was one incident here where they were in front of Gore Hall, where they were harassing a Muslim woman, and students who didn’t even know her came around her and were defending her,” he said.
Professor Pascha Bueno-Hansen of the Department of Women and Gender studies was present at the scene, emphasizing that the university community does not tolerate the activity of the religious organizers.
“The vast majority of students in this community supports love, diversity and all forms of inclusion,” Bueno-Hansen said. “Clearly this is a homophobic church group, and their values are not accepted on this campus.”
The events come in the wake of controversial hate speech spread last semester by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart senior editor, whose appearance resulted in transphobic material being posted throughout campus.
Newark Police, working in tandem with UDPD, escorted the religious group safely back to their vehicles at approximately 4:30 p.m. The protest and counter-protests consumed the entire afternoon for some students, lasting around five hours.