Messiah College student defends tweets about rape, LGBTQ community

Carlisle/West Shore

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A Messiah College student is defending tweets he sent that seem to advocate the raping of women and the mocking of the LGBTQ community, saying he’s only trying to ignite discussion and point out inconsistencies in world views.

But the tweets sent over several weeks in November are causing some students to feel unsafe on campus.

“As a woman on this campus, I have felt unsafe for a very long time just because we don’t know what these men are capable of,” senior Haley Faragalli said. “If they’re tweeting things about this, they could be capable of rape, they could be capable of murder.”

A series of Zach McDonough’s tweets starts with, “A man should have the right to choose to rape, his body his choice.” Another tweet that followed read, “My concentration camp my choice,” and then, “My plantation my choice.” The tweets also tagged Planned Parenthood in them.

McDonough said he is simply pointing out what he calls an inconsistent world view on abortion and rape, calling out hypocrisy on those who are outraged over rape but not abortion — claiming outrage should be equal among both issues.

“I’m showing people how devaluing human life in any sense is wicked and wrong,” McDonough said. “Obviously, rape is wicked and evil, but why is that evil in your world view when you hold that babies should be murdered in the womb? You have to be intellectually dishonest to think that I was actually advocating for rape. You see these things and you get that reaction where you don’t like that, but why don’t you get that kind of reaction for abortion?”

The school has known about McDonough’s tweets for almost a week, even replying to some of his posts.

Students feel more swift action should have been taken.

“When someone is that vocal, there’s a lot of added fear because is he just saying these things? Will he act on these things?” said a senior student who didn’t want to share her name, and feels similar issues in the past have been ignored. “Many students feel silenced. Many students told me they wanted to be here tonight and told me they were too scared. Racism and not addressing discrimination and not protecting minority students is something Messiah has been dealing with for a long time.”

Despite tweets that ask, in part, “Why can a woman force herself onto her baby but a man cant force himself onto a woman?” McDonough said inflicting fear isn’t his intent.

“You’re holding to one as being morally okay and one as being morally wrong, and you can’t justify to me why that’s the case,” McDonough said. “On a Christian campus where people are supporting this [pro-choice] movement, they’re supporting the pro-choice lifestyle, they believe they are Christians when you cannot support that and follow Christ.”

He doesn’t mind others are offended and says his tweets are meant to grab attention and inspire conversation.

“They’re talking about abortion, they’re talking about what I’ve said, and they’re engaging in conversation when otherwise it wouldn’t have happened,” McDonough said.

He also took aim at the LGBTQ community, mocking those who feel they were born the wrong gender. One tweet read, “Not only does my gender change on the daily so does my race, here’s my weekly schedule: Monday-White, Tuesday-Chinese, Wednesday-Mexican, Thursday-Black, Friday-Native American, Saturday-Korean, Sunday-Non Binary.”

He had a reason behind that tweet as well.

“You cannot change your gender. You cannot change your sex. You cannot change your race. These are things that are biologically true about you,” he said.

All of his tweets have started a discussion that Faragalli says could have happened differently. She thinks disciplinary action should be taken.

“I hope that I can trust that [the college is] doing something about it, but I have had a lot of doubt in the past,” Faragalli said. “Nowadays, with like all these shootings happening, you really don’t know what could happen next. It’s gonna take a lot for them to be able to gain my trust, and my friend’s trust, classmate trust’s back.”

Messiah College spokeswoman Danielle Ran in a statement said:    

“Recently, numerous members of the Messiah College community, including employees, students and parents, contacted college administrators to express concern about social media postings by a current student. In an effort to convey his personal convictions on a variety of social issues, the student repeatedly used language and imagery that conflicts with Messiah’s Foundational Values and Student Code of Conduct, which every student agrees to abide by at Messiah College.

Once made aware of the situation, college officials informed the student that his rhetoric was inconsistent with Messiah’s community standards and expectations. Despite these conversations, and having been given the opportunity to modify his behavior, the student continued to violate Messiah’s behavioral expectations. The college is directly and actively handling the matter. While there has been significant interest expressed—both on campus and on social media―in the specifics of the college’s response, privacy laws, including the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), prohibit Messiah from further comment on individual cases under its code of conduct process.

Rann confirms as of Thursday, McDonough is still a student at Messiah, but she couldn’t elaborate further on what action might be taken against him.

Students say they want the college to be more proactive in the future.

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