South Carolina

Clemson official tells praying man to leave because it’s not a ‘free speech area’

By Kate Irby

kirby@mcclatchy.com

Clemson University
Clemson University

Kyra Palange was walking across Clemson’s campus last Thursday afternoon when she saw a man sitting in a folding chair, with an empty chair sitting next to him.

The Clemson grad student walked closer to him and saw a sign on the empty chair that said “PRAYER,” according to the Young America’s Foundation.

“I approached him and we sat down to pray for a few minutes,” Palange told Young America’s Foundation. “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.”

Palange captured part of the interaction on video. In it, a Clemson University official identified as Shawn Jones confirms to Palange that the entire campus is not a “free speech area.”

Clemson University spokesman Mark Land told the College Fix that they did not ask the man to leave campus or interrupt his prayer, and people are welcome to pray anywhere on campus. But individuals or groups not affiliated with the university have to register certain activities so they can be conducted in appropriate areas.

“In this case, the community member had posted a sign inviting people to pray with him constituting, in the university’s view, a solicitation to join a gathering,” Land said. “As such, one of our administrative staff members politely informed the individual of the process for obtaining approval to hold such a gathering.”

WeRoar Clemson, a free speech group on campus, is planning to protest the policy on Friday, calling it unconstitutional.

“They will attempt to make it seem like they are listening to our concerns, but all they will really do is treat us like children that have to be manipulated and pacified while they continue to create and enforce arbitrary policies,” the group said in an email.

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