An Orwellian nightmare became a reality for an evangelical preacher this week when a cop near the University of Texas at Austin issued him a “disorderly conduct” citation for “offending” a student.
An intern with Campus Ministry USA was confronted by multiple police officers on Tuesday and informed he would be written up for offending a student. Video of the incident soon went viral on YouTube.
“We had somebody that was offended by the gestures you were making,” the officer said. “And that’s our job – to make sure that doesn’t happen, because these are students just walking in this mall right here. So the job here is to write you up as a citation, disorderly conduct, for offending someone.”
The preacher asked how it was against the law to use biological terms like “penis” during a presentation on science-related issues, but rebuffed.
“It doesn’t matter, freedom of speech. Someone was offended – that’s against the law. I don’t want to argue with you. That’s against the law.”
The organization’s leader, Brother Jed Smock, told the Daily Caller on Wednesday that its intern was merely talking about the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases linked with anal sex.
Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the education watchdog Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, told the website it was “deeply disturbing” to see the video.
“The implications for campus expression are dire,” Cohn said. “If offending someone on campus is now grounds for criminal citations, students wishing to express themselves will much more likely censor themselves, or simply refrain from speaking at all. Such a result is unacceptable, legally and morally, at a state university bound by the First Amendment.”
Campus Ministry USA told the website that a call to the police station from their legal representation resulted in an apology and the withdrawal of the citation.
News of the incident also prompted the school’s public information officer, Cynthia Posey, to issue a statement on Friday.
“The University of Texas at Austin Police Department (UTPD) ‘chain of command’ has fully reviewed the incident brought to our attention this morning, and has determined that the disorderly conduct citation issued did not meet the intent and requirements of the law, and as such, the citation has been voided,” the statement read, the Blaze reported. “Our review further showed that the officers in training responded to a call for service in good faith and with respect for all parties involved, including the person(s) wishing to file charges as well those being accused. The department will use this opportunity to remind us all of the importance of safe-guarding all people’s constitutional rights, of which UTPD is fully committed and obligated to defend.”