An administrator at Clemson University forced a man to stop praying because he was not in a designated “free speech area” and was therefore “soliciting” by praying there.
Identifying himself as Shawn Jones, Clemson’s assistant director for client services told the man to leave the area where he was praying, at approximately 3:15 p.m. Thursday, and that he would need to file paperwork with the university in order to request to pray in that area.
“We have designated areas on campus. With him not being a student, or faculty or staff, he has to through the proper procedures,” Jones told student and Young Americans for Freedom member Kyra Palange, in a video obtained by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF).
Jones urged Palange to “take a look” at the school’s policy regarding ‘free speech areas, confirming, “this is not a designated free speech area.” He further affirmed the entire Clemson University campus is not a free speech area.
Palange told YAF she had been praying with the man for a few minutes until he was told to leave.
“I was walking across the grassy area near Fort Hill after class at about 3:15 when I saw someone sitting in a folding chair,” she recounted. “Next to him was another folding chair with an 8×10 sign that said PRAYER. I approached him and we sat down to pray for a few minutes. When we finished, a man from the university approached us and said he could not be praying there because it was not a ‘designated free speech area’ and presented the person who was praying with a form for the procedures for applying for ‘solicitation’ on campus. He told him he had to leave.”
Clemson spokesman Mark Land defended, “the community member in this situation was not asked to leave campus nor was his prayer with one of our students interrupted”; rather, he was simply directed to “an appropriate location, such as one of the university’s designated free speech zones.”
In a statement to The College Fix, Land criticized the “community member” for “inviting people to pray with him constituting, in the university’s view, a solicitation to join a gathering.” Land praised Jones for “politely inform[ing] the individual of the process for obtaining approval to hold such a gathering.”
YAF spokeswoman Emily Jashinsky wrote:
Attention Clemson: The entire United States of America is a free speech zone. If an American wants to exercise their religion, they should be able to do it regardless of whether or not they are in a “designated free speech area.” And silently offering prayer to anyone who wants to take part is not “solicitation.”
Jashinsky told The Daily Wire the university has not directly responded to YAF or Clemson YAF regarding the incident.
Follow Pardes Seleh on Twitter.