ESTERO, Fla. - Just how far can free speech go at public universities? Some Florida Gulf Coast University students say it's gone too far, and they want controversial preachers to be regulated while on campus. But administrators say, the words are out of their control.
"Many Jews are very selfish and racist," Brother Micah Armstrong said in a YouTube video recorded last week at FGCU.
Students say traveling preachers like Brother Micah are hard to ignore.
"I pay my money to get an education here," student Julian Montalvo fired back on the video. "I don't pay my money to get condemned to burn in hell."
Often the preachers' amplified words strike a nerve.
"Preaching is one thing," student Lenise Joseph said. "Do that all you want, as along as you are not overly disturbing classes or disturbing faculty and staff. But once you start peppering in the hate speech, we're going to have problems."
Montalvo is taking a stand. He's collecting hundreds of signatures to remove brazen preachers from busy campus areas. Montalvo worries the public shaming could affect students in dangerous ways, even causing some to consider suicide.
"It went from just preaching to homophobic comments to just saying things about the sorority girls walking around, just a lot of hateful things," Montalvo said.
"People like you are going to become extinct because you cant reproduce," Brother Micah said in the recorded video.
FGCU Vice President and Chief of Staff Susan Evans tells WINK News, "We're aware that some of our students are unhappy with a traveling preacher whose MO is to visit public university campuses across the country and preach with words that most people consider offensive and hateful."
"However, public universities cannot regulate the content of what is said on the campus. We are able to regulate activity that disrupts classroom or business operations - in other words, if someone (a preacher or otherwise) were on campus screaming next to a classroom and it was disruptive to the orderly functioning of the class, we would make the person stop because of the disruption. Not engaging someone who is provocative for the sole purpose of getting a reaction is the most effective approach our students could take."
Some students say it's just easier to ignore it all. "First Amendment protects it," student Michael Fischer said. "If you don't like it, just walk away. It's distasteful, but they have the right."