The University of Central Oklahoma was given a real-life test in following the Constitution after a student group invited a speaker to campus and the LGBTQ community launched a campaign to prevent him from coming.
While the speaker’s invitation initially was rescinded, it later was reinstated, and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis was allowed to exercise his constitutional right to speak.
Ham’s organization, which built a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark in northern Kentucky and runs the Creation Museum, said after Ham’s speech it “hopes an example has been set for other state-supported institutions to ensure free speech on their campuses.”
“After all, when America’s founders assembled a Bill of Rights for their new nation, what were the first rights accorded its people? Freedom of religion and freedom of speech (in that order). In that First Amendment, the government specifically pledged that it would not restrict the ‘free exercise’ of religion. Thankfully, as the country watched, the University of Central Oklahoma passed the test – at least this afternoon.”
The organization, which bases its worldview on the Bible, added: “Pray for America’s leaders in academia – national, state, and local. We are commanded to pray for all leaders (1 Timothy 2:1), and that would include those employed at universities as they consider policies that will either help or undermine academic freedom.”
Ham, who famously debated atheist Bill Nye “the science guy,” had been contracted to speak on differing interpretations of scientific evidence and to follow with a question-and-answer session.
The invitation came from the student government, but the president of the student body on the 17,000-student campus in Edmond, citing objections from LGBTQ activists, decided to cancel the speech.
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes commented that even though the campus had “opened its arms to drag queen shows and safe sex carnivals” it was drawing the line at “Christians who believe God created the Heavens and Earth.”
Student body president Stockton Duvall wrote in an email said the student leadership was “getting bombarded with complaints from our LGBT community about Ken Ham speaking on our campus.”
“While I know this looks awful censoring certain parts of Mr. Ham’s views, I want to ensure that we stay on topic of the research Mr. Ham and his team have done over creationism,” he wrote.
The contracted speech was titled “Genesis and the State of the Culture.”
A pastor of a nearby church, Paul Blair, said of Duvall: “I think this young man was bullied and intimidated. I think he succumbed to the bullying that these LGBTQ groups are known for. Those that scream out and demand tolerance are in actuality the least tolerant group of individuals on the planet.”
The issue became national at least partly because the lecture was scheduled to be in Constitution Hall, and critics of the cancellation pointed out activists successfully had stifled free speech in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s protection of freedom of speech.
Ham, on Facebook, said it was “pressure from a professor leading the LGBTQ group at the university” that prompted the effort to censor him.
“So much for ‘toleration,'” he wrote.
Blair stepped in because he was “beside myself with frustration that our tax dollars go to promote a drag queen show and safe sex events with carnival games that are obscene and graphic.”
“Yet when it comes to something like debating Darwinian evolution or talking about the literal Creation account of Genesis – well that kind of speech must be censored,” the pastor said.
In its report after Ham delivered the speech Monday to a largely friendly audience, AiG said it had received support from UCO alumni, local pastors and even state lawmakers.
It explained UCO President Don Betz had stepped in and reinstated the invitation.
“Ham’s presentation in Constitution Hall (and watched by others via closed circuit in an overflow room) was not disrupted, AiG said. “During his lecture, ‘Genesis, Science, and the Culture,’ Ham brought up some of the key points that he presented during his two famous evolution/creation debates with Bill Nye ‘the Science Guy’ that occurred over the past four years (in 2014 and 2016). He emphasized the two different worldviews and their respective starting points when interpreting scientific evidence. Ham also acknowledged the limitations of science when it comes to studying the unobservable past as it relates to the evolution/creation question. At the same time, Ham indicated that various fields of science confirm the Bible’s record of earth history, starting with Genesis chapter one. In his talk, Ham also discussed how social issues of our day relate to Genesis, including the biblical basis for marriage: one man, one woman, for life.”
Ham’s comments were followed by a talk by Georgia Purdom of AiG, who holds a Ph.D. in molecular genetics.
The university, before Ham’s appearance, held a public forum on the importance of preserving free speech.
Ham commented: “I’m happy to hear that UCO is openly discussing the importance of preserving freedom of expression and First Amendment rights on its campus. UCO certainly does not want to be seen as intolerant and become another U.C. Berkeley.”
Some local media called Ham “a controversial Christian speaker” but acknowledged he spoke to a “packed auditorium.”
A report said there was one person who held a sign protesting Ham’s speech.