Christian university cancels Ben Shapiro over 'rhetoric,' then changes course
- Grand Canyon University announced Friday that it has canceled a Ben Shapiro speaking engagement.
- The school said it wants to "focus on opportunities that bring people together."
- But GCU has since independently invited Shapiro to speak.
A private Christian university canceled a student-organized speaking engagement by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, citing a “current high volume of rhetoric,” but then invited the speaker.
In a Friday statement, Arizona’s Grand Canyon University explained the rationale behind its decision to cancel the event, organized by the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. The university said that while its mission often aligns with Shapiro’s message, specifically regarding his emphasis on Judeo-Christian values and the importance of a free market economy, the school has decided to bar him from speaking in order “to focus on opportunities that bring people together.”
The university went on to tout its “unique and united community” where people come together “no matter their political differences,” and warned against today’s “high volume of rhetoric,” which it says “has not led to community building or problem-solving.”
“Grand Canyon University, rather than engage in this type of rhetoric, has instead worked to bring people together and build partnerships to renovate our inner-city community.”
“We have obviously disappointed and offended some of you,” the university admitted, adding “We know that if we had made a different decision, we would have disappointed and offended others within the same community.”
However, the university assured the community that it did not intend to “disappoint or offend anyone,” but instead “to use [its] position as a Christian university to bring unity to a community that sits amidst a country that is extremely divided and can’t seem to find a path forward toward unity."
“By caving to an unseen mob and ignoring the popularity of Shapiro among its student body, Grand Canyon University just played itself and deserves whatever negative response this brings,” Young America’s Foundation Spokesman Spencer Brown said in a Friday statement. “GCU has abandoned the sentiment of its own proclaimed values, deluded itself into acting like the liberal campuses it claims to differ from, and blindly accepted the Left’s ludicrous argument that Shapiro’s presence somehow damages students, campuses, or debate.”
GCU's YAF chapter called the school’s decision to cancel the event “absurd.”
“We cannot understand why our school would refuse to host someone who is a tireless advocate for traditional Judeo-Christian values,” the group said in a statement posted to Facebook.
Other conservative voices have also weighed in. Erick Erickson, the founder of the conservative website The Resurgent and a current Ph.D. theology student, mocked GCU on Sunday, tweeting, "shorter @gcu: we are so united we’re going to deny some a speaker because we can’t be united if some students choose to hear @benshapiro. Sounds like @gcu’s unity is shallow and not gospel filled."
Shorter @gcu: we are so united we’re going to deny some a speaker because we can’t be united if some students choose to hear @benshapiro. Sounds like @gcu’s unity is shallow and not gospel filled. https://t.co/YZRjIl67xX— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) February 3, 2019
It's not the first time a Christian university has come under criticism for canceling a Shapiro appearance. In November, Gonzaga University in Washington State cited its Christian mission as one of the reasons for not hosting the conservative speaker. The school subsequently allowed Shapiro to speak, provided he follow certain standards, including adherence to Gonzaga's mission statement, which professes dedication to the values of diversity and social justice.
GCU also subsequently allowed Shapiro to speak, citing "misleading and false information" published by the national Young America's Foundation chapter in a news release.
"Each time, the local chapter followed the University’s existing approval protocols and conservative speakers were brought to campus, including Allie Stuckey in November 2018 and Michael Knowles in October 2018," the school said. "In this latest case involving Mr. Shapiro, the same protocol was in place. However, when the YAF chapter submitted its guest speaker request in writing on Dec. 11, YAF’s national organization announced publicly on the same day that Mr. Shapiro would be speaking at GCU even though the University had not yet begun its approval process."
"The process of releasing the information became very contentious as the parties could not agree on the exact language that was going to be used. After nearly 24 hours of not being able to work in a productive fashion with the YAF national organization, the University has decided to take a different path forward" and directly invited Shapiro with GCU's Young Americans for Freedom chapter.
Campus Reform reached out to GCU for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
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