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Bagpipes over preachers

On Friday, August 19, around 1 P.M., Brice Ehmig, an FGCU senior majoring in political science and minoring in environmental education, received a text message from her girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Cicolani, a junior communications major, saying that “The Preacher” was on campus.
If you’ve been on campus since the first day of school, chances are, you’ve seen him. He is usually somewhere between the Cohen Center bus stop and the Library lawn.
Ehmig had recently seen a video from Scotland of someone playing bagpipes as a peaceful protest and immediately saw an opportunity. Ehmig has been playing the bagpipes since she was 11. She said, “I have this talent and I wanted to use it.”

Bagpipes over preachers
Photo by Fabiana Solano

She went out onto the Library lawn armed with her bagpipes. She had Cicolani hold her belongings just in case she was asked to leave. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Cicolani was able to record a two-minute and thirty-six-second video of Ehmig playing the bagpipes next to the preacher while he continued to talk into his megaphone. In a little over 48 hours, the video has been viewed just shy of 25,000 times.
“It was very cool,” Cicolani said of the crowd that formed behind her while she recorded Ehmig, “I was so proud of her. It takes a lot of courage to not only own who you are, but to fight for it.”
The preacher has directed hate-speech towards Ehmig as she’s walked on campus holding hands with her girlfriend and she has heard him say negative things to girls wearing short shorts or people who are overweight.
“He’s not exercising freedom of speech; he’s abusing it,” Ehmig said. “I don’t think he should get kicked off campus – he has the right to be there just as much as I do, but he says not nice things, and that’s not okay. And I don’t think the bullhorn is necessary. It really just causes interruption.”
Ehmig went on to say that she has had conversations with him previously in the last three years, but they never seem to lead anywhere. This was another way for her to peacefully protest.
“The Preacher” has the right to be on campus because FGCU is owned by the state, which means that the preaching is happening in a public area and he is not breaking any school policies.
According to Cornell University Law School, “fighting words” are not protected under the first amendment. These words are defined as those “which would likely make the person [to] whom they are addressed commit an act of violence.”
So while it’s true that no laws are being broken, Ehmig thinks it’s important to take note of people’s feelings about him and how his speech is actually hostile and unprotected under the first amendment. That way, maybe one day, the University can use the documentation to put together something like a recommendations committee or mock lawsuit.
“I hope people realize that he does not represent religion,” Ehmig said. “He does not represent what religion stands for. People should be honest about their feelings and if you have a creative, non-violent way to protest, go for it.”
The video has garnered plenty of attention on Facebook, not only in view count, but in shares as well. It has already amassed almost 300. One personwho shared the video was Ehmig’s eighth-grade social studies teacher, Teresa Bergstrom, who wrote, “Watching a former student stand up against hate-mongering makes me so proud to be a social studies teacher. Get it, Brice Ehmig!”

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  • S

    Star MannAug 23, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Missing the over-arching point that this “hate-monger/ messenger” is actually spending their own time and reputation (Albeit poorly expressed or misguided) to endure bringing the “hated message” that “the preacher” most likely deeply believes (faith) is needed for the repentance & eternal benefit of its hearers:
    Romans 3:23 King James Version (KJV)
    23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
    Not an easy or comfortable message to deliver or to hear & especially not well received if perceived to be from a self-righteous source.
    In other words, their actions may (and probably do at root) stem from their own sincere concern for the eternal well being of these others, or actually LOVE.
    The kind that risks something.
    Not the kind of “love” that causes a parent to allow their child to have immediate gratification via Snickers for dinner etc., but the kind that looks to their long-term benefit & makes them eat healthy food.
    The real issue is in a lack of attention to accomplishing the delivery as painlessly as possible and in their apparent mistaken absence of the second half of the message… The Good News:
    John 3:16
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    Romans 6:23
    For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    People often say “Don’t judge” without recognizing that believers realize judgement has already occurred and that WE ALL fail miserably to meet the set standard of perfection.
    They can still always agree to disagree.
    Allowing for diversity in thought vs. “Groupthink”.