Religious freedom issue in Village eviction
Signal, The Student Newspaper of Georgia State University, March 10, 1998
By Jennifer Smith
For the first time a Georgia State University student is being evicted from the Village for a conflict between soliciting policies and expression of religious beliefs.
Thomas Redmond [member of the International Church of Christ], a senior and education major, received an eviction notice from Complex Director Michael Sanseviro three weeks ago. Since then he has filed an appeal and is awaiting word from Dean of Students Dr. Kurt Keppler about whether the eviction will be upheld or overturned.
According to Redmond’s attorney Jason Hasty, his client, Keppler, Sanseviro and GSU attorney Carolyn Vignery met March 2 to discuss the eviction, but there was no immediate resolution.
“I feel that the position of the Village is that to invite someone to church is a violation of their solicitation policies. I have a major problem with that because anytime you invite someone to a ballgame, or a movie, then you’re violating it,” said Hasty, “and that’s silly.”
“The Village has no intention of infringing on anyone’s freedom of speech or religion,” said Vignery. “These are non-content based policies. It doesn’t matter what the student or students were talking about. It’s how it’s done.”
“Our policy makes it pretty clear that no solicitation of any sort is acceptable in the Village,” said Sanseviro. “Going door to door makes people feel uncomfortable in their homes. We’ve stopped fraternities from doing that in the past. It doesn’t matter that this is a religious issue.”
Complaints about solicitation by people about church or by religious groups has reached the notice of GSU administration and some students.”
“It’s our responsibility to protect the students from any sort of harassment, and when you’re reportedly approached six or seven times an afternoon at the place you live, people get upset. We’re in the process of trying to define exactly what ‘harassment’ is, but the no solicitation policy is very clear,” said Keppler.
Asia Hauter, a freshman and music performance major, claims to have been harassed by religious groups at the Village. “I’ve been solicited. I’ve been preached to for hours and repeatedly asked to bible study groups. The first couple of times I went because I was uncomfortable saying no, but when I finally did say no, now those people won’t talk to me.”
Heather Gill, a senior and journalism major, said, “I was getting on the bus to go to the Village, an this girl approached me, complimented my shoes, and then repeatedly asked me to go to church with her. I don’t like that, it’s not fun. Religion is a personal choice and these groups that solicit don’t realize that they look forceful and aggressive.”
To date there have been 30 evictions from the Village, 25 of them reportedly drug related.
Thomas Redmond declined the Signal‘s request for an interview.