UNH law students walk out in protest of email sent from a Christian student group following Nashville shooting

  • UNH Law students walk out of the main entrance of the school on Wednesday, March 29, 2023 to protest the email that was sent out concerning the recent shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • UNH Law students protest the email that was sent out concerning the recent shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, after walking out of the main campus building on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Dylan Quattrucci leads a group gathered at White Park for a vigil for the victims of the recent shooting in Tennessee earlier this week. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The small vigil at White Park at sunset on Wednesday by a student group called the Christian Legal Society and their friends.

  • Hannah Neumiller speaks to the crowd after they walked out of the UNH building on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • UNH Law students walked out of the main entrance of the school on Wednesday, March 29, 2023 to protest the email that was sent out concerning the recent shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Dylan Quattrucci leads a group gathered at White Park for a vigil for the victims of the recent shooting in Tennessee earlier this week. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • AhLana Ames speaks to the group of UNH Law students that walked out on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/30/2023 6:32:52 PM

Students and faculty marched out of the University of New Hampshire law school Wednesday afternoon bearing signs in support of the queer community and calling for the school’s administration to stand up against a Christian group that planned to hold a candlelight vigil for victims of an elementary school shooting in Nashville.

They chanted “UNH, stand against hate” as they spilled out of the building onto the front lawn. Many carried signs and flags in support of the transgender community, many of whom felt targeted by an email sent to the student body Tuesday night by the Christian Legal Society inviting others to their vigil, activists said.

The email was more than an invitation. It stated Christians are the targets of violence and hate from transgender rights activists.

“By all accounts, this terrorist attack on a Christian school was motivated by anti-Christian hate and this incident comes after a barrage of rhetoric demonizing Christians and anyone perceived to oppose the ontological premise of transgenderism,” the email read. “Activists, actors in the media and others have fueled this hate and paranoia by telling stories to falsely and spuriously imply that anyone opposed to the trans agenda is in favor of a ‘trans genocide.’ Such fear-mongering broadcasts that trans people are in mortal danger for anyone who does not celebrate or conform to transgenderism.”

Students called the email transphobic and violent and urged the university to take action against the Christian Legal Society.

“CLS is hijacking a senseless tragedy to spread their bigoted agenda an it’s incredibly heartbreaking to know that there are people on this campus who, in less than 48 hours, took the tragic death of six people and spun it to progress their twisted narratives that directly impact queer lives on and off campus,” said AhLana Ames, student and member of the queer community.

To be clear, Ames continued, no one was opposed to the remembrance vigil – they were opposed to the way the Christian group targeted the transgender community and its allies.

“These statements were violent and the university has only had quiet responses up until this point,” said law student Sydney Reyes. “Without recognizing what has been experienced on campus as violent, I don’t think quiet responses are addressing it; it’s time to be loud.”

The Nashville police chief said the elementary school shooter, who was fatally shot by police, was transgender, according to reports from the Associated Press. A Nashville police spokesperson later said Audrey Hale “was assigned female at birth” but used masculine pronouns on a social media profile.

“I think the focus on the shooter’s identity is unhelpful, regardless of whether the shooter was trans,” Ames said. “By focusing on the shooter, the spotlight is removed away from the victims and the impacted community, further taking the conversation away from the real issue: gun control.”

Vigils were held for the six victims – three children and three adults – in Nashville Wednesday night.

At the small vigil in Concord, members of the Christian Legal Society and a few friends gathered in White Park with candles and said a prayer for those who were killed on Monday in what was the 125th mass shooting the country has seen since Jan. 1. The discussion did not include anything about transgenderism or call for violence toward the queer community. Organizer Dylan Quattrucci refused to comment afterward.

“There are a lot of things God speaks about that we are called to refrain from as Christians but we’re first called to live among people in peace,” said Zachary Ramos, who is not a student but said he was friends with members of the group. “Even the most peaceful person is subject to having times of weakness and forgiveness is for everyone but it’s a hard thing to grasp.”

As a result of the group’s email, students called on the administration to disbar them from aligning with or being recognized by the university, and pleaded with the administration to condemn hate speech, discrimination and the Christian Legal Society itself.

In an email to the student body, Dean Megan Carpenter said the group’s email was under review to see if it violated UNH’s policies protecting against discrimination and harassment policy. However, she reminded the school community of its commitment to free speech.

“As a guiding principle as an institution of higher education, we are committed to the free and open exchange of ideas, active discourse and critical debate,” she wrote in an email. “All members of the community have the right to hold and vigorously defend and promote their opinions and the exercise of this may result in members of the community being exposed to ideas that they consider unorthodox, controversial or even repugnant.”

Carpenter said the university’s recognition of a student group “is not an endorsement of that group’s views or statements, nor does it reflect the university’s values.”

She said UNH and the law school “honor sexual and gender diversity and we also support the right for our members to freely express their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

This isn’t the first time the queer community or other minority communities have been targeted by Christian-aligned affiliate groups, said Hannah Neumiller, a law student who led the students at the walkout. Instead of addressing student concerns, making changes and enacting better policies, each incident has remained “under review” by administration and action is rarely, if ever, taken.

Jamie Costa

Jamie Costa joined the Monitor in September 2022 as the city reporter covering all things Concord, from crime and law enforcement to City Council and county budgeting. She graduated from Roger Williams University (RWU) in 2018 with a dual degree in journalism and Spanish. While at RWU, Costa covered the 2016 presidential election and studied abroad in both Chile and the Dominican Republic where she reported on social justice and reported on local campus news for the university newspaper, The Hawks' Herald. Her work has also appeared in The *Enterprise *papers and the *Cortland Standard *and surrounding Central New York publications. Costa was born and raised on Cape Cod and has a love for all things outdoors, especially with her dog.

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