While “Quad preacher” Tom Rayborn is still present on campus most Wednesdays, there will not be any more bullhorn chanting, at least for now.
Jennifer Hernandez, an associate professor in the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior, was out on the Stratton Quadrangle chanting “Your hate is not welcome here” with others at Rayborn the two weeks before fall break, but she’s decided to stop.
Hernandez’s protests were very different than the Gay-Straight Alliance’s silent protest of Rayborn, although both groups were out there to protest Rayborn’s rhetoric.
“I felt like the GSA — the student organization — really wanted to do a protest in their own way, and instead of finding me as a person that was an ally and joined in solidarity, they wanted to conflict. So, because this is — how they see it — their fight, I agreed to back off,” Hernandez said. “So, I will let them do their protest however they want to and back off. I think it’s unfortunate that we were unable to come together, but I also think that if they want to do this their way, it will be a good learning opportunity.”
While Hernandez said she wanted to drown out Rayborn’s speech, the GSA’s protest takes an entirely different approach, according to sophomore anthropology major Kimberly Hickman, of Edwardsville.
“The reason we’re still having a silent protest is because we’re trying to highlight what he’s actually saying and doing,” Hickman said. “At least in the core of my beliefs of the protest, if we yell over him, then nothing happens, people just see both sides as yelling, and we go our separate ways after.”
Hernandez said that she hoped her experience with previous protests would be useful to the GSA, but that she didn’t want to stand in the way of their message.
“My hope was that we would join in solidarity, and it could be an experience where they learn and they gather a toolkit and a skill set on how to deal with hate and people coming after them for who they love and who they are,” Hernandez said. “They decided that they think I’m more of an obstacle and that I was in the way of what they wanted to do, which is the last thing I want to be. So, it’s on them now.”
Another silent protester, undeclared freshman Elly Bollinger, of Edwardsville, said they believed the silent protest also highlighted the overall problems with the use of amplification on the Quad.
“Whenever we’ve talked to other students and people just walking by, they’ve mentioned they can hear it from the science building, from the parking lot, some people can even hear it from their classrooms,” Bollinger said.
Despite that, Bollinger said the reactions from concerned students had been a mix of frustration with the volume level on the Quad and the messages Rayborn was sending.
“It’s been a very mixed [reaction]. Some people don’t like the noise, some people don’t like what he’s saying, other people, it’s both, it really depends on the person” Bollinger said. “As you would expect, the people he’s targeting, a lot of them are very disturbed by the things that he’s said, the things he has done, [but for] people who have not engaged with Tom think while some of the things he’s saying are upsetting, the volume is the problem.”
Hernandez said she understood her message may be grating, but that was part of the draw of it for her.
“Yeah it was loud and it was annoying, and I’m fully aware of that. That’s kind of the point,” Hernandez said. “Now I have administrators’ attention. The first day I’m out there on the bullhorn I have the provost and the entire Dean’s Council out there looking at me like ‘what’s going on?’ GSA wearing costumes and holding signs is not bringing the provost out of her office.”
As a public university, SIUE has limitations on how they can restrict speakers on campus due to the First Amendment.
However, Hernandez said she didn’t believe all of Rayborn’s alleged comments are covered under the free speech or religious freedom protections of the First Amendment.
“What I think the true argument is, is that if they were out there yelling the N-word at students of color [or] if they were saying anti-Semitic things to Jewish students, that that would not be protected,” Hernandez said. “They’re saying that calling a transgender student a ‘trans devil’ or ‘trans demon’ is not the same. How is that any different, or any less hurtful or harmful?”
However, Rayborn denies accusations that he has ever called a student a “demon” or a “devil.”
“I never call names, I never call people out, ever,” Rayborn said.
While Rayborn said he does not single out particular students, he said he does believe that being homosexual or transgender is a sin.
When asked about why he preaches the way he does, he said it was because he views himself as a mailman of sorts who simply delivers a message, and that like a mailman he is only delivering the word of god.
“You can’t tamper with the message. The message of god’s word is abrasive, if you will, because it cuts against our fallen nature and reminds us that we’re sinners … Man, that’s abrasive. Who wants to hear that?” Rayborn said.
Hickman said between the protests and the town hall meeting in November, she hopes there will be changes in the future.
“Working with administration, and actually working to get things done is how we’re going to see change,” Hickman said. “If it wasn’t for the administration actually helping and backing us up … we would not see anything get done.”
Hernandez sees the matter differently, however.
“I think I got attention. I got [the administration’s] attention,” Hernandez said. “Do I think it will change anything? Unfortunately, my years of experience will say no. I have found in most cases of this, not just in universities, in most cases of this the aesthetics and the fear of lawsuits will keep things status quo.”
Rayborn said that he will not be on campus the week of finals.