This Must Be a New Proselytizing Technique…

Earlier today at the University of South Alabama, a Christian student climbed onto a JagTran shuttle (the campus-owned bus) and began preaching.

This is how Daily Kos contributor weatherdude, who was on the bus at the time, explained it:

[She] ran on the bus and shouted “I’m from [some organization I didn't catch the name of] and I’d like to save your souls in the name of Jesus.” She stood at the front of the bus and put her arms up on both poles, effectively blocking the entrance so people could neither get on nor off.

Even worse, “the bus driver shut the radio and bus engine off and joined in.”

Wait, what?

There’s low-quality video of the incident but you can barely make anything out. In any case, the bus was stopped for two minutes. Good thing no one had anywhere important to go…

“I’m late for my test because someone on the bus washed my sins in the name of Jesus” isn’t a valid excuse to professors.

Here are the bigger questions:

  • What is the university going to do to prevent things like this from happening again?
  • What the heck was the bus driver thinking and will be get reprimanded?
  • Would this behavior have been condoned had the proselytizer been Muslim, atheist, or Mormon?

Weatherdude seems to have little hope that anything will change:

There’s not much I can do on my end. The administration does the same thing — during my freshman orientation, an administrator led a group of 400 or 500 people in open Christian prayer. It’s like they’re daring someone to sue them.

*sigh*

If that’s true, someone needs to document it and let FFRF or the ACLU know. No public school should be doing this and it’s shameful that the Christians think the best way to spread their message is by trapping people in situations that aren’t easy to get out of.

(Thanks to Lena for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    will be get reprimanded?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I can think of plenty of things I could have done but I’m not going to post any of them. People will just think I’m a giant dick if I do but then again sometimes you have to resort to dick moves to resolve situations.

    • Alex

      For what it’s worth, I’d probably get arrested if I were in a situation like this and I was in a hurry.

  • Wade

    I would have popped the fire escape.

  • Brad Rhoads

    Please don’t generalize this guy’s behavior to all Christians. I suppose there might be an appropriate place for “open-air evangelism”, but I don’t think a bus is it. And blocking the door was certainly wrong.

    • MJS

      Why shouldn’t this behavior should reflect poorly on all christians? You don’t see atheists blocking buses to debate people on the finer points of punctuated equilibrium.

      • viddy_well

        Your logic doesn’t work here. Just because some members of a group do something wrong, even if their group is the only one that does it, does not mean all members of that group are culpable.

        • PJB863

          Tell that to the christians who tirely work against the rights of LGBT people!

          • Dan

             Terrible examples of logical fallacies from PJB863 and MJS. Sigh.

            So if one atheist is racist does than mean it should reflect poorly on all atheists? Please don’t ignore critical thinking as soon as it is convenient.

            • PJB863

              I think you’re missing my point:  all too often, many christian groups imply or come right out and state that LGBT people are a threat to children, western civilization, etc. based on isolated instances of behavior.  What the hell do you think that is?

    • Baby_Raptor

      Why not? Your side does it all the time, to every group that isn’t you. Why is it only unfair when it’s aimed at ya’ll?

    • Coyotenose

       Intrusive proselytizing is a feature of Christianity, not a bug. Christians who DON’T do this sort of thing are literally doing it wrong. Thankfully, most Christians do it wrong and are decent people.

      • The Other Weirdo

         Isn’t there a place in the NT where Jesus commands that the people who don’t follow his disciples, and by extension, him, are to be brought before him and killed?

    • amycas

      Hemant wasn’t generalizing. If the type of Christians he’s talking about aren’t the type of Christian you are, then he’s not talking about you.

    • David McNerney

      The video says different – I’m not hearing one crazy woman and a bus driver, I’m hearing a lot of sheeple responding to her mantra.

    • cipher

       And blocking the door was certainly wrong.

      Why? If you truly believe we’re going to burn in hell for all eternity, shouldn’t you be knocking people down in the street and forcing them to listen? I think this girl was being a more conscientious Christian than those of you who don’t have the stomach for that kind of tactic.

      • The Other Weirdo

         Because if she “truly believes” that, she truly needs to seek psychiatric help. All is not right with her head. Delusions are bad, m’kay?

        • cipher

          I don’t think you understood my point.

          • The Other Weirdo

             I understood. They have a biblical commandment to obnoxiously proselytize. That doesn’t make them any less delusional.

  • Kitchengardener

    Holy crap.  We used to have street preachers show up on my college campus, but most people just ignored them.  So long as they didn’t cause trouble or interfere with anyone’s travels, and no one complained, the campus police let pretty much anyone get up on their soapbox – preacher, amateur philosopher, politician, or whatever – no matter how crazy they sounded.  (And we had some serious loonies show up at times.)  Blocking the way or laying hands on a student would get them hauled away, though!  Both the preaching student and the bus driver need to be censured in the Alabama case.  Being held against their will and forced to listen?  Yeah, I think the students on the bus have cause to demand action from the administration!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aaron-Scoggin/100000044792747 Aaron Scoggin

    Here’s what you do – Forcefully remove her (at least one arm) from the bus and be on your way. That’s what I would have done.

  • http://twitter.com/Outcast_Kyle Edgar

    Something like this could have benn solvedd with something as simple as a good old kick in the stomach. Just kick the crazy girl out of the bus and then. Something like that would have saved a lot of time for everyone.

  • houndies

    isnt holding people against their will a felony?

    • amycas

      yes, actually. I think it’s defined as unlawful restraint, or in some places, unlawful arrest.

      Edit: or maybe it’s false imprisonment like Joe Zameki suggests below…

  • atheisticallyyours

    This is why fire extinguishers on buses exist, and they should have been APPLIED in this case. If this fool was “on fire” for their pathetic religion, I say, “PUT THAT FIRE OUT”! 

  • jdm8

    Would it be illegal to use the emergency exit?

    Frankly, the bus driver probably should be fired. Basically using paid time to preach religion, that is so not in the job description and not beneficial to helping the organization.

  • LesterBallard

    I fear I would have lost my temper. And if being late had affected me in a deleterious way, I know I would have lost my temper. Fucking fanatics.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    *eartwitch*

    Do. Not. Want.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yeah, I’d say both these people need to face repercussion, especially the driver. Fire his ass. 

  • Joe Zamecki

    I would have gotten violent. Sorry, false imprisonment is that wrong.

  • newavocation

    Nothing new, you ever have to sit through or rather stand up for a prayer at a public meeting? 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      0/10

  • Coyotenose

    22 comments, and at least four of them advocate assault as a response to obnoxiousness and mild inconvenience. No, not just as a response; as a first response. Is it not clear how dehumanizing it is to suggest, “I’d just casually beat her down and be on my way”?

    • 3lemenope

      I’m with you there. While I’m as liable as the next person to react to actual unlawful imprisonment with physicality, this situation doesn’t even come close to that. A person merely obnoxiously interposing themselves between you and the exit is not enough, especially if you haven’t tried either asking them to move or brushing by them first. If they try to use force to restrain you and prevent your egress, then they are seizing your person, and you may use force to secure your freedom, that force being proportionate with the necessity of the situation and its exigencies; unless their armed and brandishing, you probably can’t legally “beat them down”, and if they are armed and brandishing it might not be the best idea in the world to try. 

      But everyone is brave on the Internet.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

         ”A person merely obnoxiously interposing themselves between you and the
        exit is not enough, especially if you haven’t tried either asking them
        to move or brushing by them first.”

        Tell that to the douchenozzle cops who said that my ex was in the right to physically remove me from a doorway because he “felt trapped”.

        • 3lemenope

          I take no responsibility for douchenozzle cops and their continuing inability to correctly apply the law. :-/

      • Xeon2000

        I must be reading different comments. I didn’t see anyone threaten to “beat them down”. A few commenters said they’d get angry and physically remove to person so they could leave the bus.

        You state it would be okay to use adequate force if the person blocked your way. I imagine commenters simply assumed such a person would block them from exiting the bus and force would be required to exit. I don’t blame them for their assumption. I agree.

    • The Other Weirdo

       I just did a search for the word ‘beat’, and the only places I can find it is in your post and the responses to you. I don’t see where you see people suggesting to just casually beat her down. Can you explain what you mean?

  • Trot

    This sort of thing has been going on at the school for over a decade.  When I was a student there, I’ve witnessed a few new Christian groups pulling all sorts of stunts.  They never needed any permission from the admin for any of it.  Some used to stand in front of classrooms in the hallways between classes proselytizing, preaching, etc. One such girl was in a history class of mine. She demanded to know the religion of the professor. The professor decided to take a poll in the class. “Who here believes I shouldn’t have to answer this question?” Almost everyone rose their hand. It was a brilliant moment. She was quiet for the rest of the day.  It was hard to believe sometimes that South is a public university… Slogans such as “Jesus is Lord” and “Jesus is Risen” were chalked all over the sidewalks and plastered upon the doorways of the Humanities building during the week of Easter… They were certainly Christian soldier-students on the march.  I had hoped they were gone by now.  Damn…

    • Lena

       I’m a senior at South and sadly it really hasn’t gotten much better – if anything it’s gotten worse since our SSA got off the ground, since I guess they now feel like they really need to put the fire of Jesus under us godless heathens, or whatever. There was a boy like the girl you described in one of my lit classes, our prof just told him the question was inappropriate and the class awkwardly moved on. I was also cornered in an elevator by one of those. And of course there are the campus preachers. And those people who were handing out bibles to everyone who came out of the bookstore. So yeah. It’s usually ignore-and-run-away until you get trapped in a bus by it.

  • Philovaihinger

    Just wear a sign.

    “I’m an asshole. Love me!”

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    This kind of lunacy sometimes happens on Los Angeles public buses that my wife used to ride. Some godfreak would get on and start his or her incoherent and slightly threatening religious tirade, blocking the exit and intimidating people who just wanted to go home. The driver would simply call the police, they’d arrive surprisingly quickly, and they’d haul the fruitcake away.

    The university bus driver definitely should not have joined in, both delaying taking people to their destination, and giving the girl’s inappropriate behavior the implied endorsement of the University. For this incident, I think he should be given a written reprimand that goes in his work record. If he repeats anything even remotely resembling this, then he should be fired.

    None of this will have any chance of happening unless weatherdude, and hopefully others who were on the bus submit a formal complaint to the University administration. Since other comments indicate that the University has a long history of condoning or at least giving tacit approval of such behavior, they will not change their practice or policy until the complaints, bad publicity and threats of lawsuits start building up.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    This Must Be a New Proselytizing Technique…

    No, it’s actually the oldest technique, force. It’s just a rather mild example of force. 

  • cipher

    What the heck was the bus driver thinking and will be get reprimanded?

    Alabama.

    That answers your question.

  • DougI

    Where’s Keanu Reeves when you need him?

  • http://www.facebook.com/XrayAgent J Michael Carter

    The purpose of this exercise was not to proselytize, but to get the proselyte used to being at odds with mainstream society.  If there are any official negative repurcussions for the driver or student, it will simply be considered and publicized as another skirmish in the “War on Religion”.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Ah, the Martyr’s Mindset(tm).

  • smrnda

    Causing disruptions on buses is usually forbidden, and if the bus driver didn’t do something they are at fault. Last I checked buses were supposed to run on schedule and stopping so someone can rant and rave is egregious misconduct on the part of the driver. I can understand the driver stopping if the intent of stopping was to deal with the situation or call the cops.

    I get sick of open air evangelism and the rest of the intrusive means that Christians shove their message, which I know just as well as them, in my face at every opportunity. Please, everybody has heard of your religion by now, and there’s nothing to stop any interested party for seeking out Bibles and churches and other resources, but unless I’ve shown you that I’m interested, leave me alone. It isn’t about persuasion, it’s a show of social dominance – behavior that would be considered inappropriate for say, a vacuum cleaner salesman, is somehow acceptable when it’s done in the name of religion.

    Also, even if everyone on the bus but one person was a Christian who wanted to hear the spiel, they have no rights inconveniencing anyone. They’ve got their own churches they can do this in.

  • Ned Ludd

    Why didn’t someone get up and tell them where they should shove their imaginary friend and stop blabbing about their ridiculous superstition. I would have. I have done it in other cases where the assholes came to my house or accosted me in a parking lot.

    When it is a man and woman couple, I  ask the guy if he wants to screw the gal. That usually gets his goat.  One time it was three women who came to my place. One was cute and I asked her if she came to find a man to screw. They left immediately. It is too easy to rock their boat. Always keep the conversation turned to sex.

  • Mark W

    I  think this guy handled it the entirely  wrong way.  What he should have done, is pretend like he was calling the police, then in a voice loud enough for her and the driver to hear say, “Hello, Yes, I’d like to report a possible hostage situation.  I just witnessed what looked like a religious extremist get onto the JagTran bus and start making threatening gestures at the occupants.  The bus has stopped and the driver seems to be complying with the extremists demands.  No, I can’t see any visible weapons but the individual is carrying several objects that could be weapons or a bomb.  Police are on the way.   I’ll stay on the line as long as I can.  The terrorist is 5’7″ brown hair, female, light skin tone wearing a blue hoodie …”  Then let the games begin.

  • vampires exist

    Reminds me of when I got on an empty elevator, a leaflets-carrying woman jumped in right before the doors shut, and asked me: Have you heard the good news?
    I completely ignored her. She added: Jesus loves you. Still no reaction. Got off. The end. But to this day I can’t think of a retort  clever enough to both amuse me and completely deter her, other than: “Git ye behind me, Satan.”

    • Deven Kale

      I’d love to be able to come up with clever stuff in person in those types of situations, but I usually just freeze up and can barely get out a simple response. On the internet though, that’s a different story.

      You could try something like, “Are you from the office? Please tell me that the evaluation went okay and I can finally go ahead with the sex-change!” Or maybe something like, “The plan’s been approved? Great! Inform the eagle I’ll meet him at the LZ at 03:00.”