A Laramie church elder was back at the same place Friday he’s spent most every Friday during the school year at the University of Wyoming since 2006, manning a table in the student union proselytizing about God and salvation.
Todd Schmidt is suing the university and president Ed Seidel alleging his free speech rights were violated when he was banned from the Wyoming Union for a year in December after he called out a transgender student by name on his table sign.
While the lawsuit is ongoing, a federal judge issued an injunction lifting the ban Aug. 18, and Schmidt has resumed the same Friday routine he’s had for the past 17 years, offering advice on following God’s plan.
For the most part, it seemed business as usual at the Wyoming Union. Schmidt was the first to arrive and he quietly put out a table full of books, literature and pamphlets for people to take.
He also put up his trademark sign, which he tacks to the front of the table. It hangs down and, using Velcro letters, he’s able to spell out various messages. Friday’s was: “Live not by lies. The truth will make you free.”
The message Schmidt displayed Dec. 2 that got him banned in the first place read: “God created male and female and Artemis Langford is a male.”
Langford is the first transgender member of the UW chapter of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority had had recently been featured in the student newspaper Branding Iron.
By naming Langford, Schmidt violated the university’s policy on discrimination and harassment, Seidel said in a letter announcing the ban.
The judge disagrees, ruling that Schmidt is likely to win the parts of his lawsuit claiming First Amendment violations.
Those legal issues are still making their way through court, but in the meantime, Schmidt said he plans to continue to be at the Wyoming Union on Fridays.
He declined to discuss issues related to his ongoing lawsuit, but did tell Cowboy State Daily that, for the most part, he doesn’t engage with students unless they talk to him first.
He also said that he had posted messages on his table sign with a faith-based perspective on LGBTQ+ issues without a problem, but naming Langford on Dec. 2 was the first time he’d done that.
On Friday morning, his was the only table set up and he had a lengthy discussion with a passing student on a variety of topics, including debating numerous questions the student asked Schmidt, including, “Is God a lunatic?”
Other students walking past his table didn’t seem to pay much attention to it.
While it was business as usual Friday morning, there have at times been past dust-ups around Schmidt’s table, said Sydney Ernst, manager at the Rolling Mill Café directly across the hall from Schmidt’s table about 15 feet away.
She’s been working at the café for about eight years and said that, for the most part, “I try to remain blissfully ignorant of what’s going on over there.”
Once in awhile, students will yell something at Schmidt or they may engage in debate, but she hasn’t witnessed anything threatening or violent.
“I know they’ve always done the tables along here, and you get some people who want to argue with him, but others see that and jump in to defend him,” she said. “I just try to ignore it.”
Schmidt said he intends to continue to have his table at the Wyoming Union on Fridays.
As for his lawsuit, despite some parts of it being dismissed last week, the bulk of his claims against Seidel and the UW policy have so far survived.