Amid controversy, creationist speaker rescheduled to visit UCO

The University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond. Official photo.

By Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

Creationist Ken Ham will visit the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) to speak, despite previous efforts by UCO students.

President Don Betz has re-extended Ham's invitation to give his presentation on creationism on March 5. His decision was made, “In a move to promote free speech on the University Campus,” according to the UCO Vista.

“The misrepresentations about the social commitment of UCO to free inquiry has demonstrated that we are presented with the opportunity for a teachable moment on the principals of civil discourse and the pursuit of knowledge,” Betz said in the interview.

Ham solidified his stance against the LGBT+ community in 2017 by declaring he was “taking the rainbow back!” He is the CEO of Answers in Genesis, a Christian apologetics organization.

The original invitation was rescinded by UCOSA President, Stockton Duvall when he asserted he was being “bullied” by a student group in a private meeting earlier this month regarding the Ham visit. Other students in the room rebuke that claim.

“None of my colleagues bullied him," said Andy Traxler, a student worker with the Women's Research Center/BGLTQ+ Student Center at UCO who was in the meeting. “He came to an open-door meeting (which means the door remained open the whole time), where my colleagues questioned how Ken Ham was approved.”

The group also questioned the use of public funds. “Such is subject to the separation of church and state statutes. We requested more information about the visit, and in that time frame, Stockton canceled the visit.”

Ham laid claim a contract had been broken by the University.

“I don’t necessarily support him being re-invited, but I do appreciate the University offering a talk on evolution the day after Ham’s scheduled speech, and a first amendment discussion the day after that,” added Traxler. “Also, the fact student funds won’t be used either is something I’m very pleased with.”

A student who chooses to remain anonymous said, “I am a Christian and part of the LGBT+ community. For me, creationism isn’t real. It is a belief that has no scientific evidence to substantiate its claims. Therefore, his ‘research’ does not have the legitimacy of actual research.

“Mr. Ham is entitled to his opinion. However, I have a problem with him because he is surrounded by hate speech focused on the LGBT+ community."

This student agrees free speech is an essential right.

“I believe in the protection of free speech on college campuses throughout the nation,” the student said. “However, hate speech is not free speech. I believe, Mr. Ham should only speak on his beliefs of creationism. UCO only wanted him to talk about creationism.

“I would hope he doesn't’ go off topic and marginalize whole groups at our university. I say it’s fine that UCO wants to bring him since it’s no longer being paid by our student fees."

This student was, however, hopeful the University would not extend an invitation to speakers such as Ham.

“In the future, hope we never bring a speaker that has so much controversy and negative statements that surround them such as anti LGBT/women’s rights rhetoric. I think there should be a better background check into speakers, done by our student body government.

“Ken Ham has the right to free speech as do I. One thing to remember is that freedom of speech is not freedom to have a platform to say things wherever and however you want if they marginalize entire communities.”

The Gayly. February 20, 2018. 10:20 a.m. CST.