LGBTQ activists pressured student government to rescind Christian speaker’s invitation
A well-known biblical creationist has been disinvited from speaking at the University of Central Oklahoma next month.
Ken Ham, whose Answers in Genesis ministry helped build a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark in Northern Kentucky and who famously debated Bill Nye in front of a national audience, says organizers reneged on their signed contract with him, citing pressure from LGBT activists.
“Ken’s presentation in the school’s Constitution Hall, titled ‘Genesis and the State of the Culture,’ was objectionable to a campus LGBT group, which put heavy pressure on the UCO Student Association to cancel,” according to a news release from Ham’s ministry.
According to the contract, Ham’s talk was scheduled to take place March 5. The event would have included Ham’s talk about two different perspectives of interpreting scientific evidence, followed by a question-and-answer session.
In a Facebook post announcing the event’s cancellation, Ham alleged that “a professor leading the LGBTQ group” pressured the university to rescind his invitation. Ham did not reveal the name of the professor.
Paul Blair, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church near the school, denounced the decision in the Answers in Genesis news release.
“I am greatly disappointed that a university that boasts of being ‘discrimination free’ on its website openly discriminates against the free speech rights of Christians on the campus,” he said.
Blair worked with a student group at the university to organize the event. In his statement, he referred to the school’s Equal Opportunity Statement and Campus Expression Policy, which proclaims the university’s commitment “to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged.” Previous events that the university has allowed under these policies include a Safe Sex Carnival and a drag queen show.
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) February 7, 2018
In an official statement from the university, Vice President for University Communications Charlie Johnson declared that the student government rescinded the invitation independently of the university administration.
“The university may advise, but does not direct, the activities of [University of Central Oklahoma Student Association],” Johnson wrote. “In fact, in the spirit of the UCO policy on freedom of expression, the university President, Provost and the Vice President of Student Affairs supported and did not deny the proposal to bring Mr. Ham to campus to encourage conversation and debate of diverse perspectives. This was prior to UCOSA’s cancellation of the invitation to Mr. Ham.”
The student government president, Stockton Duvall, posted on Facebook a letter providing more details. He wrote that after campus administrators approved the event, some people on campus expressed disapproval.
“Many did this respectfully, while some did not,” Duvall stated.
The letter continued that in response to these reactions, the student government was still committed to sponsoring the event. According to Duvall, it was only after “the organization we partnered with chose to end the partnership on the Ken Ham event” that the event fell apart.
Duvall admitted that “a lack of communication on my part” may have contributed to the partnership’s end. He also wrote that the “uncertainty of what could happen at the event,” as well as his own absence from it, motivated his decision.
He also said he had been bullied by “a very vocal group on campus that has little tolerance for opposing viewpoints.” Duvall did not specifically cite LGBT activists in his memo.
But according to emails obtained by Todd Starnes of Fox News, LGBT activists played a role.
“We are currently getting bombarded with complaints from our LGBT community about Ken Ham speaking on our campus,” Duvall wrote in an email to Answers in Genesis.
Even though the talk was not meant to address LGBTQ topics, Duvall wrote that he originally intended to request that Ham refrain from discussing them. In the end, however, he moved to cancel the event altogether.
Said Ham: “I find it highly ironic that after being scheduled to speak in the school’s Constitution Hall, our constitutional right to free speech and the free exercise of religion, guaranteed under the First Amendment, have been denied with the school’s cancellation. Apparently, free speech at UCO is protected only if it is the ‘right kind’ of speech.”
Since the event’s cancellation, Blair has announced that Ham will speak instead at Fairview Baptist Church on the same date of the original event.