It’s about 9 a.m. on a chilly morning and I am walking to the student center with two friends to grab a snack before our next class. As we reach the building, we are greeted by an older man passing something out. Out of curiosity, I approach him a bit closer and I am met with a bible.
The next day, I notice the same gentlemen in a lot more detail, and my mind is bombarded with questions. What organization are they with? Are students receptive to them? Do they visit all college campuses? In the Bibles they hand out, they have specific passages, why those in particular?
Well, they are called Gideons International and, when approached, they declined an interview.
However, I spoke with some students and Student Life to get a bit more understanding.
I had the opportunity to speak with a classmate, Daniella Rodarte, and get some perspective on her own interaction. She said “she’s not a very religious person herself, but understands that they want to advertise themselves.” She did mention “it was a bit weird that they gave her one and tried to give her another immediately after.” Despite her wearing headphones and again, already grabbing one of the Bibles that was being handed out.
I met with another student, named Alejandro, who received one as well. His thoughts on the interaction were that, “the man who gave it to him was extremely nice and he took it just because he was walking by and it was offered to him and he didn’t want to say no.”
However, the Bible was not the only book Alejandro received on campus that day. He also received a Constitution from a table inside the student center, one that Alejandro approached himself.
When asked, another student, Sydney Hernandez said that while discussing his religion with one of the men on campus,“he gave us the backstory of their organization and also continued to direct us through his ‘pocket bibles’. Being Christian, I had a lot of mixed feelings, but overall came to the conclusion of uncomfortability that these men are harassing students on campus.”
According to a Student Life employee, Gideon’s International is an example of an expressive activity. They said the organization does have to follow a certain set of rules like they cannot force students to speak with them or take bibles, must stay within particular zones, are required to give their IDs to Student Life, and must fill out forms agreeing to these terms. When speaking to a Student Life employee, I learned that another church does visit campus as well. However, the Student Life employee did note they don’t pass anything out. If broken, they won’t be invited back and any student who feels uncomfortable is welcome to speak with student life to make them knowledable of the interaction.