Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Preacher shoves Christian student on Turlington Plaza

<p>Christian Chessman, 19, and Matt Bourgault, a self-proclaimed evangelical preacher, engage in an altercation on Turlington Plaza on Thursday afternoon.</p>

Christian Chessman, 19, and Matt Bourgault, a self-proclaimed evangelical preacher, engage in an altercation on Turlington Plaza on Thursday afternoon.

A preacher shoved a 19-year-old UF student on Turlington Plaza on Thursday.

Matt Bourgault, who goes by Brother Matt, pushed philosophy sophomore Christian Chessman after telling him to stay away from his two sons, whom Bourgault brought to campus.

Chessman gave this account:

One of Bourgault’s young sons handed Chessman a flier as he was walking by.

Chessman started talking to the boy, asked whether he was hungry and bought him food from Chick-fil-A. When another preacher called to the children to stop talking to Chessman, he walked a few steps to some bike racks and the boys followed.

Chessman then walked away to introduce himself to Elizabeth Armstrong, who came to support Bourgault and the other preachers.

After telling her he is a Christian, Chessman asked if he could talk to the children. Chessman said Armstrong said yes. Armstrong denied giving him permission.

When Chessman went back to talk to the children, Bourgault called to his sons to stop playing.

He called Chessman “effeminate” and “evil.” Bourgault stepped within a foot of Chessman, who told the preacher he was uncomfortable with how close he was getting. Chessman said Bourgault said, “Good. I want you to be uncomfortable.”

Bourgault told Chessman to stay away from his children and asked him if he understood why.

Chessman said he didn’t. The preacher shoved him.

Armstrong said Bourgault had repeatedly asked Chessman to leave his children alone before shoving him.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

“It was really asked kindly, and it became [a situation] where they had to protect them because the boundary was crossed,” she said.

University Police responded to the incident.

Although UPD officer Daymon Kizzar said Bourgault could be charged with battery, Chessman decided not to press charges because he said he didn’t want to make life difficult for Bourgault’s children.

“I am not trying to screw with you guys,” Chessman said during a conversation with Armstrong.

“I want to show these little kids that there is a world that is not demonic that exists outside of the world that they’re being brought up in,” Chessman said.

Bourgault, who said he found his faith at college, has been preaching on college campuses for 12 years.

He said he brought two of his eight children to UF on Thursday as part of a home-school evangelical field trip.

Bourgault declined to comment on his conversation with Chessman.

John Planas, an 18-year-old political science freshman, was one of about 25 bystanders who watched the situation unfold.

“Personally, I think it’s [the preacher’s] fault for bringing his children here,” Planas said. “I just don’t like children being involved in this stuff.”

Contact Erin Jester at ejester@alligator.org.

Christian Chessman, 19, and Matt Bourgault, a self-proclaimed evangelical preacher, engage in an altercation on Turlington Plaza on Thursday afternoon.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2022 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.