Univ. cancels Ken Ham after LGBT group 'put up a fuss'

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to include responses from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

EDMOND, Okla. (BP) -- Christian apologist and creationist Ken Ham has been dropped from the speaking lineup of a public university after a campus LGBT group complained to event organizers, Ham said in a Feb. 6 press release.

Ken Ham
 
Ham was to speak March 5 at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond on "Genesis and the State of the Culture," in an event organized by the UCO Student Association (UCOSA). But UCOSA cancelled the event when a pro-LGBT group objected, said Ham, founder of the Answers in Genesis (AiG) apologetics ministry that built the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Kentucky.

Instead, Ham will speak March 5 at Fairview Baptist (Independent) Church near the university as a guest of pastor Paul Blair, whose church operates the UCO campus ministry Valid Worldview (VW).

UCO's administration supports free speech and had encouraged the event before the UCOSA's executive committee voted to cancel under unspecified pressure, the university's communications office told Baptist Press today.

"In a statement, the UCOSA president said there was some concern and pressure expressed to him by other students and student groups that influenced that decision," Charlie Johnson, UCO vice president for university communications said. "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."

UCOSA President Stockton Duvall also tweeted that he takes responsibility for the cancellation, but was pressured by "a very vocal group on campus that has little tolerance for opposing viewpoints."

Ham noted in a press release that UCOSA reluctantly canceled his date.

"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 said. "Free speech in America is under increasing attack by some very intolerant people."

VW worked with the OCUSA in inviting Ham, said Blair, who also issued a press release on Ham's new venue.

"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," Blair said in the press release posted in Ham's blog. "Since the doors of our public university are closed, we will open our doors for interested students and members of our community to hear what Ken has to share."

Ham found irony in the cancellation. "In this case of discrimination, I find it highly ironic that after being booked 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."

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP).
Download Story