UCO student group successful in keeping anti-LGBT speaker off campus

UCO Women's Research Center & Blgtq+ Student Center group, June 2017. Facebook photo.

By Jordan Redman
Staff Writer

The University of Central Oklahoma Student Association rescinded its invitation of anti-LGBT+ Ken Ham to speak on campus following pressure from pro-LGBT+ group, the UCO Women's Research Center/BGLTQ+ Student Center.

Stockton Duvall, UCO's student body president, said student government leaders, in partnership with a student group called Valid World Views, had asked Ken Ham to visit the campus on March 5 to share his perspectives about the science behind Darwinian ideas.

Duvall said members of a group affiliated with the Women's Research Center/BGLTQ+ Student Center at UCO opposed Ham's visit because of his view traditional views on marriage equality.

When asked about the group's organizational efforts, Lindsey Churchill, Associate Professor of History and Director, Women's Research Center and BGLTQ+ Student Center, said "It was actually very spontaneous. The students found out about Ken Ham’s visit during a staff meeting and wanted to go and talk with their student body president. They went to Stockton’s office but he wasn’t there. He then offered to come to the Center. We had a 30 minute conversation where students expressed their dismay and also reminded Stockton of his promise to support women and the LGBTQ+ community on campus."

Churchill continued, "Students were also concerned about transparency. The students didn’t want Ham to come to campus (or at least allow him to have a debate) in part because he has never been to a public university as far as we know. They are also upset because of how this story has been spun. There are many members of the group that are Christian and it’s been portrayed as a Christian versus lgbt issue."

In 2016, Ham solidified his stance against the LGBT+ community by declaring he was “taking the rainbow back!”

Statement from Ham’s blog:

“Taking the Rainbow Back!

In recent times the rainbow (albeit with some different colors) has come to represent something far different. To many people it means freedom, love, pride, a new era, and, specifically, the LGBTQ movement. Indeed when the US Supreme Court legalized gay “marriage” last year, the White House was lit up in rainbow colors and released a statement saying,

‘Tonight, the White House was lit to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to progress and equality, here in America and around the world…The pride colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, and tonight, these colors celebrate a new chapter in the history of American civil rights.’

But the rainbow itself wasn’t designed to be a symbol of freedom, love, pride, or the LGBTQ movement. God created this beautiful, colorful phenomenon and designated it as a sign of His covenant with Noah and his descendants forever.

Sadly, people ignore what God intended the rainbow to represent and proudly wave rainbow-colored flags in defiance of God’s command and design for marriage. Because of this, many Christians shy away from using the rainbow colors. But the rainbow was a symbol of God’s promises before the LGBTQ movement—and will continue to be after that movement has ended. As Christians, we need to take the rainbow back and teach our young people its true meaning.”

Ham said he wasn't planning to speak about his views on marriage; however, when Duvall recommended that he sign a statement agreeing not to discuss that topic even if it came up during the question-and-answer session, he refused.

"I wasn't prepared to do that because I believe there should be freedom of speech and that's what the university should allow. I don't attack those people. I don't hate them. I wasn't going to talk on them or deal with that in my presentation, but if it came up in question time I would want the freedom to answer those questions," Ham said.

Churchill exclaimed, "We didn’t want someone who is not “research” based and also says discriminatory things about the lgbtq community to come on campus without UCO students knowing that their student fees went to this or at least provides a counter point to debate Ham."

The Gayly. February 8, 2018. 11:45 a.m. CST.

Updated: 5:21 p.m.

Statement from University President Don Betz on Freedom of Expression

Recent statements on social media and in the press have reported on the decision by the University of Central Oklahoma Student Association (UCOSA) to withdraw from negotiating a contract with Mr. Ken Ham of the organization Answers in Genesis. While we understand and appreciate the many points of view being provided on this topic, we wish to clarify for the community our view and practice of speech.

The University of Central Oklahoma supports the democratic processes guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution by ensuring that all groups have the right to access a venue for free speech on our campus. We are a marketplace for the exchange of free ideas and we embrace the opportunity to do so. That’s what makes us free.

As a public institution whose campus is public property, our doors are open to any who wish to express their ideas so long as student and public safety is preserved. A variety of groups representing a full spectrum of ideas and opinions regularly come to our campus and speak freely, and we have public spaces for them to do so. That includes demonstrators that support a variety of sometimes controversial positions.

Our campus community is composed of many people and organizations that offer various viewpoints on many topics. A diverse group of students posed questions about the decision to invite Mr. Ham to campus. While any reports of bullying will be and are being investigated, it is important to state that reports that the LGBTQ community prevented Mr. Ham from being invited to campus are inaccurate and unfair to members of our campus community.

As we reflect on the conversation that has emerged during the past two days, we expect the outcome of that discussion to only strengthen our resolve to remain the inclusive and diverse community we have become, and will remain, at UCO.

No one has the ability, nor has UCO ever attempted, to limit speech on our campus.  All who wish to freely express their ideas in a peaceful and civil manner, including Mr. Ham, are welcome to do so at the University of Central Oklahoma. 

Statement from The University of Central Oklahoma Regarding Freedom of Expression, (Released Feb. 7, 2018)

The University of Central Oklahoma stands firm in its policy regarding freedom of expression. UCO is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged while keeping the safety of our community a top priority.

In the specific matter of Mr. Ham’s proposed presentation on campus, the UCO Student Association (UCOSA)—which invited Mr. Ham to speak at UCO—made the decision, via a vote of its Executive Committee, to rescind the invitation. 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.

The university may advise, but does not direct, the activities of UCOSA. 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.

This experience reinforces our resolve to make our campus a welcoming environment for the civil expression of diverse thought.  And, we will continue to support the student-centered culture we value and promote at the University of Central Oklahoma.

The Gayly. February 8, 2018. 5:21 p.m. CST.