Towson students protest extremist group on campus
Editor’s note: this article contains explicit language.
By: Caitlyn Freeman, Editor in Chief
Over 100 Towson University students engaged in a counter-protest against members of a self-described Christian church who disrupted the campus Thursday with a demonstration featuring homophobic and anti-feminist language.
Five members of the Key Of David Christian Center posted up near Towsontown Garage Thursday, led by the group’s leader, Aden Rusfeldt. Most held signs with homophobic language, like “God hates f—” and “H—s deserve aids.”
At least two of the demonstrators were children.
According to its website, the organization operates out of Philadelphia and says it is against the Nation of Islam, another religious group, and the Catholic Church. The website also states women are not allowed in the group’s leadership and that “a wife is to submit to her husband in all areas except sin.”
Rusfeldt said in an email late Thursday the organization came to campus to “spread the good word of God today and encourage the women to Stop spreading their legs before marriage. To warn people about STDs and Eternal Hellfire.”
The organization has a history of protesting on college campuses. The organization visited the University of Maryland, College Park, in early April, according to its Facebook page.
In April 2022, the group came to Towson’s campus, which spurred a similar student counter-protest.
The university allowed the group to remain on campus as long as they stayed within Towson’s designated area for protests and demonstrations, located next to Towsontown Garage.
Students initially started counter-protesting across the street from the area in Tiger Plaza. They eventually crossed the street, causing university officials to put up barriers between them and the religious demonstrators.
Many students had signs, with one reading “Pro-Life until they’re born” and another reading “I’m a slut, and I’m proud.”
Some students chanted “Love thy neighbor” at the organization as well.
First-year students Cara Dudenhoefer and Daphne Kloehn said they were tanning in Tiger Plaza when they saw Rusfeldt and decided to join the counter-protest.
Kloehn said she chose to protest because she felt Rusfeldt is a “cunt.”
Rustfelt called several Towson students “whores” after the barriers came up. He also taunted women protesting, telling them to relay their messages through a man.
Junior Liliana Wolf said as a Christian, she attended the counter-protest to show the difference between her beliefs and the organization’s, specifically relating to the group’s homophobic views.
“I’m just very disappointed as a Christian and how they’re representing, and I’m here to just try to represent Jesus better and so that they don’t get the wrong impression of who he is,” she said.
The counter-protest coincidentally occurred during the Student Government Association’s #Not@TU event. The campaign focuses on addressing hate and bias on campus.
“They’re just not right to be on campus,” Jayden Johnstone, SGA’s director of Sustainability and Civic Engagement, said while holding a #Not@TU sign. “I just want to make sure that all the students know that.”
Rusfeldt said in the email that his response to the protesters is to “stop hating on Christians and rushing the police barricades like wild jackals. Our church was there to debate and dialog, but 99% of you just wanted to yell at us and our kids. So much hate, so sad. Read the Bible and obey what you read”
Some social media comments and protesters expressed discontent that the university allowed the organization to remain on campus. However, as a public institution that must follow the First Amendment, Towson must take a content-neutral stance regarding student speech.
While the language the group used may be inflammatory, it is still protected by the First Amendment, according to Towson’s policy for reporting hate crimes and bias incidents.
A 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brandenburg vs. Ohio, found the government can only limit speech if it intends to cause harm, there is a likelihood the speech will cause harm and if harm is imminent.
Matt Leno, assistant vice president of Student Affairs, said Rusfeldt’s organization was conducting “hateful speech” but not hate speech, so it was allowed to remain on campus.
Towson graduate student Emma Oldershaw said she attended the protest to show solidarity and that there was “a massive group of” counter-protesters compared to Rusfeldt’s organization.
“This is dumb,” graduate student Olivia Gooch said while protesting. “I feel bad for people who have to sit out here and listen to [Rusfeldt].”