Two Public Universities Canceled Events with Right-Wing, Religious Speakers This Month

Protesters hold signs during a free speech rally

Protesters hold signs during a free speech rally / Getty Images

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Two public universities canceled events this month after drawing heat for giving controversial right-wing and religious speakers a platform.

A speech by Ken Ham, president and founder of Kentucky's Creation Museum, was killed at the University of Central Oklahoma due to objections by an LGBTQ group, according to Stockton Duvall, student body president.

Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and founder of the Ark Encounter theme park, was expected to speak March 5 in UCO's Constitution Hall on "Genesis and the State of the Culture."

Duvall said he stopped the contract negotiations after he was "bullied" about the event in a meeting with faculty and students affiliated with the UCO Women's Research Center and BGLTQ+ Student Center.

"I am not the first person to be personally attacked by a very vocal group on campus that has little tolerance for opposing viewpoints," wrote Duvall in a statement. "The culture of allowing this group to bully both individual students and organizations on our campus ends now. I will not allow any more intimidation to be directed towards our campus community from this point forward."

The WRC and BGLTQ+ have denied claims that they pressured Duvall.

UCO President Don Betz said reports of bullying are being investigation, but rejected as "inaccurate and unfair" the suggestions that the LGBTQ community railroaded Ham's appearance.

He added that the university adheres to its free speech commitments, and maintained that it was entirely the students' decision to scrap the event. The university would not object to Ham speaking on campus "in a peaceful and civil manner," said Betz.

Ham called the cancellation a violation of his right to free speech and free exercise of religion.

"A small but vocal group on campus put up a fuss about my talk and the university caved in, tearing up the contract and contradicting its policies of promoting ‘free inquiry' and ‘inclusiveness' on campus," Ham wrote on his blog.

Ham will instead appear at a nearby Baptist church.

Concerned state lawmakers are now looking into the allocation of taxpayer dollars to a public university they say is engaging in discrimination on the basis of religion and political viewpoint.

Rep. Kevin Calvey (R.) accused the university of "censorship and bigotry against Christians," while Rep. Chuck Strohm (R.) contended that the "overwhelmingly Christian and conservative" Oklahoma populace should not be made to pay for institutions that deride their values.

Meanwhile, California Polytechnic State University abandoned a discussion on "Fake News: What is it and who decides," when panelists withdrew due the inclusion of Bill Whittle on the roster.

Whittle has been criticized by both sides of the aisle for his endorsement of theories linking race and intelligence.

The would-be event was initially co-sponsored by the College Republicans and Democrats, the Cal Poly Journalism Department, League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County, and Cal Poly Associated Students Inc.

With organizers and speakers dropping out, the decision was made Friday to cancel as there was "insufficient time" to find replacements, according to Women Voters co-president Marilee Hyman.

Rachel Frommer

Rachel Frommer   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Rachel Frommer is a staff writer with the Washington Free Beacon reporting on campus issues, including anti-free speech and anti-Israel activity. Prior to the Free Beacon, she was the senior campus correspondent at The Algemeiner. Her work has been picked up by Fox News, Newsweek, and the New York Post. She graduated from Touro College in 2016 with a BA in English literature. Her Twitter handle is @Rachel_Frommer, and her email address is frommer@freebeacon.com.

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