The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

LGBTQ students targeted by “street preachers”

GVL+%2F+Emma+Armijo
GVL / Emma Armijo

A group of religiously motivated individuals gathered around the Cook Carillon Tower at Grand Valley State University to preach to people passing by about Christian salvation, specifically targeting LGBTQ and anti-abortion issues on Friday, Sept. 21. A crowd of students gathered around the group, responding to the “street preachers” with shouts and homemade signs and pride flags showing their support for the communities under fire. 

The street preachers were mostly concerned with individuals who identify within the LGBTQ community, calling out to passing students saying their actions and life choices have condemned them to a “life in hell.” Many students found this extremely disruptive, offensive and unnecessary. 

Adam LaCroix, the leading member of the preaching group, set up a microphone and multiple tripods to livestream for his ministry’s YouTube Channel TeamJesusPreachers. Team Jesus Preachers is a religious organization based in Fort Myers, Florida that travels around the country to stand on street corners and college campuses “to spread the gospel.”

“God the Father’s ears are not heavy that it cannot hear–but your sins have separated you from your God. Your hands are stained with blood, your hands,” LaCroix said, gesturing to a student in the crowd. “Your lungs are stained with tar. Please, I am preaching straight out of Isaiah. Straight true, straight facts.”

GVSU student Emily Papesh was riding her bike through campus when she came across the crowd of students surrounding LaCroix and the other street preachers on the lawn. Papesh expressed her frustration towards the street preachers, saying the group had no place to pick apart students’ identities on their own campus.

“People like this is why people are so scared to come out and it just, it doesn’t make it any easier because this should be, like, an inclusive campus where everyone can come, and I don’t think people like this should even be allowed to preach this stuff,” Papesh said. “Especially if Grand Valley preaches about inclusivity and diversity, this man shouldn’t even be on this f–ing campus right now.” 

Students expressed confusion surrounding how the group was permitted on campus without any intervention from the university. The street preachers arrived on campus around 11:30 a.m. and continued to preach completely uninterrupted until their departure at 4 p.m. If the subject is creating a threatening or toxic environment for students of the university, many are left to wonder why no campus representatives were able to step in and mitigate the situation. 

GVSU’s policy prevents interfering with actions considered under the First Amendment. Due to the United States’ specific legislation protecting freedom of speech, there are many implications for any entity trying to interfere or prevent it, meaning that people outside the university are legally able to come onto campus grounds and exercise those rights. 

Despite the university’s Disorderly Conduct Policy, the individuals preaching on the lawn near the clocktower are protected because the area is considered a zone for “expressive activity.” The street preachers feel that by confronting students who have “sinned” they are doing their part to follow the word of God.

Zaphire Arvizu, a volunteer with Christ Forgiveness Ministries, was on campus with LaCroix preaching Christianity and salvation for students. Arvizu does not share the same ministry as LaCroix but shares the sentiment for “being biblical.”

“Things like sin, though, don’t get you into heaven, so we are calling out sins that don’t get you into heaven and elaborating on what sin is more so people can understand, and yes it’s, like, causing some controversy because it’s personal when people are actually doing those sins,” Arivzu said. “Ultimately we are just planting the seeds of the lord. (LaCroix) wants everybody to know the truth so they can be saved, and yes, the truth hurts, but it hurts a lot more in hell.”

Arvizu didn’t seem to have a personal connection to LaCroix and Team Jesus Preachers. It was unclear how many other ministry organizations were involved, and many declined to provide a direct comment. 

Although the area is considered a place where people can outwardly express their opinions, a social climate elevated with conflict could put students’ safety at risk, in which case the university should be called to respond.

Raquele Ayres a sophomore student at GVSU was stopped by a crowd of students on the way from class. Ayres expressed frustration with not only the street preachers but also with the lack of action from campus.

“Nobody is out here telling this man (LaCroix) to leave. And I mean he is creating a distraction, but it’s still like why doesn’t anyone care?” Ayres said. “They were here for hours and hours. All day. So, just, GVSU needs to do better. That’s it.”

Additionally, LaCroix settled a lawsuit against the city of Fort Myers, Fla. that was elevated to the federal level regarding the freedoms of an individual protesting in 2022, particularly with regards to the First Amendment. The suit against the city pertained to citations LaCroix received while protesting that he claimed violated the First Amendment among other legislation in Florida. The district court concluded the Ordinance’s ban on portable signage was content-neutral, “laws that apply to all expression without regard to the substance or message of the expression,” so the city of Fort Myers was justified in issuing citations. However, the case was raised federally to the Eleventh Circuit who reversed the judgment, concluding the Ordinance’s ban was in fact content-neutral, but LaCroix’s action was protected under the First Amendment and that the city could not fine him. The city of Fort Myers paid LaCroix more than $66,000 to drop the suit.

LaCroix and Team Jesus Preachers did not provide a statement to the Lanthorn, despite multiple attempts of communication.

Many students are fed up on how the university handled the situation, asking why GVSU hasn’t taken further action to protect their students.  

“This is just really frustrating because we go to a university, and I feel like everyone should be able to feel safe. It’s just frustrating that people are allowed to come on our campus and spew hate like this,” Aryes said.

GVL / Emma Armijo
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Emma Armijo, News Editor
Emma Armijo is the Lanthorn's News editor for the 2023-24 year. She previously worked with the Lanthorn for a year and a half as a news staff writer before joining the editorial team as the Arts and Entertainment editor in the winter of 2023. Emma enjoys all things creative like dance, music and drawing. Her aspirations after college include working as a professional in the dance industry and writing for a major print news organization, The New York Times. Graduating Winter 2025 Majors: Multimedia Journalism, Dance