Accompanying the spring weather yesterday morning on campus, dozens of individuals were stationed around campus handing out miniature Bibles to students and others passing by. Some stood outside residence hall buildings as well as other classroom and student-populated buildings.
While MSU policy permits groups giving away handouts, some students expressed feelings of frustration.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to do that because they don’t even necessarily ask,” psychology freshman Ola Turkey said. “Especially when you see, I’m a hijabi. I look Middle Eastern, you know damn well that I don’t want a Bible, so why are you going to need to ask me that?”
Turkey also said she thought it was unfair for one particular religion to be advertising around campus, while other religions may face a more hostile reaction than mere annoyance.
“It feels really cult-y because if I was passing around stuff about Islam, it’d be like, ‘terrorists,'” Turkey said. “But it just feels oppressing. Like freedom of religion, but you clearly keep pressing me about yours.”
Turkey said the manner in which those handing out Bibles conducted themselves also proved to foster feelings of discomfort.
“Like the ones I had seen, they were two old men, like these men were in their late 60s,” Turkey said. “And then you feel bad, especially as a young girl, being like ‘no, no thank you’. And sometimes they’ll press on that, like ‘just have it, it’s okay, you can have it.' I don’t want it.”
Chemical engineering senior Noelle Kurien said she is a practicing Christian, but she thought the gesture was a little "over the top."
"I personally think handing out Bibles is not very productive most of the time, especially to college students who are busy, trying to get to class, etcetera," Kurien said. "It doesn't allow for a conversation, which I think is more important if you are actually trying to share your faith."
Kurien also expressed concern about the environmental impact of handing out scriptures to students who may not want them and end up throwing them away, generating waste.
"Maybe MSU can suggest, or heavily advise more conducive ways to evangelize or spread their faith if they don't want people to hand out things that kids might just litter on campus," Kurien said.
She also recognized that a change in MSU's policy on the matter could spark new concerns over free speech and religion rights.
"I understand the sentiment behind possibly changing that, but I think with changing that comes a slippery slope of infringing upon people's first amendment rights," Kurien said. "I think freedom of speech and freedom of religion should be allowed, especially on a public campus."
According to MSU policy, permits are only required for certain groups to solicit on campus, specifically those who are selling goods.
“It’s important to remember that MSU is an open campus,” MSU deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said in a statement. “Individuals may distribute handouts and leaflets in public areas of the grounds and buildings provided they are not disrupting university activities or services. If an individual feels unsafe at any time, we encourage them to contact the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety at 517-355-2221, or 9-1-1 if it’s a life-threatening emergency.”
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