By Scott Strasser, October 14 2016 —
Members of the Queers on Campus student club at the University of Calgary protested in MacHall on Oct. 14 after an anti-LGBTQ activist group set up in front of the Students’ Union Q Centre.
The Christian Truth Activists (CTA) are an evangelical Christian group that advocates against non-heterosexuality and abortion.
The group’s table in MacHall included posters with graphic images of aborted fetuses and sexually transmitted infections. Two members of the group promoted their messages to passersby in MacHall throughout the day.
A few hours after the CTA set up, Queers on Campus members stood by the table with a rainbow flag. Later, several dozen U of C students stopped to argue with the evangelic group.
“It’s really sad that in this age we have this going on on a university campus. They’re saying 90 per cent of U of C students agree with them. That’s clearly not the case,” said Em Rogers, an executive with Queers on Campus.
Rogers thought the proximity of the CTA’s table to the Q Centre was intentional.
“I think it was definitely targeted towards the Q Centre,” Rogers said. “There are other religious organizations that will set up there, but they usually don’t engage with us. The proximity to the Q Centre sounds like it was planned.”
CTA executive director Bill Whatcott said his group was exercising its right to freedom of speech on a public campus.
“It’s not a protest as much as an education. I’m here sharing the gospel with the students. This is exercising my right to freedom of speech,” Whatcott said. “The university has finally relented on trying to silence and censor me, so they gave me this table.”
Whatcott said he felt some passersby agreed with his message and most respected his right to free speech.
“These students obviously disagree with me, so they are counter-protesting me, which is fine. Honestly, most of these students have been pretty reasonable, although they viscerally disagree with me,” Whatcott said. “I happen to think I have the truth, therefore I really want to share this with the students.”
In the midst of the protest, U of C campus security set up signs near the table warning passersby that graphic images lay ahead.
Whatcott said the CTA paid $85 for the table, which they booked for the day until 4:30 p.m. from the U of C Students’ Union.
SU vice-president operations and finance Branden Cave said the SU apologizes for giving the space to the CTA.
“We had no anticipation this would be what was displayed,” Cave said. “We book Christian groups in the tables quite frequently. We didn’t know those images would be displayed and we’re very sorry for that.”
Whatcott is currently in a $104-million lawsuit after attending the Toronto Gay Pride Parade dressed as a zombie. He also lost a recent Supreme Court of Canada lawsuit over his distribution of
anti-LGBTQ flyers in Saskatchewan in the early 2000s.
In response to the incident, the Q Centre posted a statement on their Facebook page informing students there is an alternative route to the centre through a side stairwell if they wished to avoid the area.