A large Christian university is facing massive backlash for its decision to ban conservative firebrand pundit Ben Shapiro from speaking at its Arizona campus, a move that has drawn a nearly universal negative reaction on social media and even prompted some potential applicants to say they are withdrawing their applications.
Administrators at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix told members of its Young Americans for Freedom chapter that Shapiro was too divisive to be allowed to speak there, an argument officials also detailed in a statement published Friday.
“We believe in many of the things that Ben Shapiro speaks about and stands for, including his support for ideals that grow out of traditional Judeo-Christian values and his belief in a free market economy. Our decision to cancel Shapiro’s speaking engagement is not a reflection of his ideologies or the values he represents, but rather a desire to focus on opportunities that bring people together,” the statement read.
It concludes by quoting from the Sermon on the Mount: “If you look at America’s history, the Church has been at its best when it has worked to achieve the kind of peace that Jesus commended: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’ (Matthew 5:9, ESV). Making peace in a way that honors Christ is something we will continue to try to do.”
Grand Canyon University tweeted its statement Friday afternoon — and by Sunday evening the tweet had garnered some 5,200 responses — with thousands panning officials for their decision.
GCU statement regarding decision to cancel Ben Shapiro speaking engagement. https://t.co/PrHKnHYDMZ
— Grand Canyon U (@gcu) February 1, 2019
Among the responses:
“Your entire statement basically says that you are cancelling the @benshapiro event in order to achieve peace. You are, in a way, implying that Ben brings or will bring violence/instability to GCU. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
“As a Christian, and a Poltical Science scholar, I find this explanation lacking in any kind of Christian fortitude. Christ was a revolutionary. Christ was controversial. Christ was shouted at, spit at, beaten and executed for His words. Seems that @gcu are modern Pharisees.”
“Congratulations on joining all the other free speech stifling universities. This will backfire on you horribly.”
“Congratulations. You’ve created the exact hostility and division you were trying to avoid. A spectacular failure.”
“I think Martin Luther King Jr would have been considered divisive back in the day. Your goal is laudable but not the execution. You should find a forum for every kind of non-violent thought. Your decision seems prejudiced and bigoted against mainstream conservative thought.”
“In other words, you don’t believe your students have a right to hear conservatives speak because some people on the left might be upset.”
“As a current student @gcu I am very disappointed. I thought I was entered into an educational establishment based on truth. Not someone’s hurt feelings. False teachings not just of the Bible but of morals is in the balance.”
A Grand Canyon University student, Josh Olson, also wrote a column to take on his school’s decision. It was headlined: “My University Banned Ben Shapiro, And I’m Embarrassed.”
— Josh Olson (@JoshOlson_Real) February 2, 2019
The column quoted from a speech Shapiro gave at Liberty University, another large Christian college, in which he stated: “America was built on a fundamental idea … that human beings were created in the image of God, that we are therefore beneficiaries of inalienable God-given rights, that government was created in order to protect those rights, not invade them, and that we must use our freedom to pursue virtue.”
“What exactly does the GCU administration fear about ideas related to these coming to their Christian atmosphere,” Olson asked.
Spencer Brown, a spokesman for Young Americans for Freedom, in a statement decried the decision as tone deaf to the current free speech crisis facing higher education, as well as ridiculous considering no one was making a fuss over Shapiro’s pending visit, saying officials caved to “an unseen mob.”
Grand Canyon University’s YAF chapter also chimed in, noting “we cannot understand why our school would refuse to host someone who is a tireless advocate for traditional Judeo-Christian values. In recent semesters we’ve successfully hosted Andrew Klavan, Allie Stuckey, and Michael Knowles, all without any issues. GCU YAF will continue working with Young America’s Foundation to seek a reversal of this absurd decision.”
Brown tweeted on Sunday he is headed to Arizona to meet with campus officials.
IMAGE: YouTube screenshot