Michael Knowles says university that denied his speech 'pretends to be Catholic'

FIRE sent a letter to St. Thomas pointing to the school’s unique policy regarding freedom of inquiry and expression in its Student Bill of Rights.

Knowles told Campus Reform, 'My disinvitation from the University of St. Thomas is particularly ironic because I was disinvited specifically for espousing Catholic views.'

Michael Knowles is now speaking out after he was denied the ability to address students at a St. Paul, Minnesota, college.

In the spring 2022 semester, College Republicans at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic institution, attempted to invite The Daily Wire host, a practicing Catholic, to speak. The university denied the request due to Knowles' past statements related to past comments expressing socially conservative opinions.

Knowles told Campus Reform, “My disinvitation from the University of St. Thomas is particularly ironic because I was disinvited specifically for espousing Catholic views.”

Emails obtained by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) reveal that the university cited Knowles’ previous comments on transgender ideology when they rejected the request. 

“The school’s true religious grounding is leftism, not Catholicism. The school pretends to be Catholic, but the school contradicts basic Catholic teaching,” Knowles told Campus Reform. “When fundamental Catholic beliefs come into conflict with liberalism, or leftism, or political correctness, or whatever you want to call it, the school will side with leftism.”

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On June 28, FIRE sent a letter to St. Thomas defending the College Republicans’ right to host Knowles, pointing to the school’s unique policy regarding freedom of inquiry and expression in its Student Bill of Rights

“The University of St. Thomas recognizes that free inquiry and free expression are indispensable elements for the achievement of the goals of an academic community,” the bill states under the “Student Rights” section. 

“Students have the right to freedom of expression, including the right to dissent, protest and/or take reasoned exception to the information and views offered in any course,” the section reads. 

Despite St. Thomas being a private university, FIRE argued, “having made this commitment, St. Thomas is bound to uphold it.” 

Campus Reform also spoke with St. Thomas College Republican president David Povolny. He criticized the university citing Catholicism to ban Knowles, “Unfortunately, as of late it seems like the University prefers to keep the Catholic face without the Catholic faith.”

“The University must decide what kind of environment they want for their students, a censorious atmosphere where speakers are banned and speech curtailed, or one of free thought and dialogue,” he said. “We hope that Saint Thomas embraces its Catholic roots and course corrects away from the direction that we have seen so many other Universities take.”

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St. Thomas’ general counsel Abigail Crouse replied to FIRE’s letter stating that the university “followed its policies in declining the request to invite Mr. Knowles to campus.”

FIRE responded in a lengthy article on their website, calling for St. Thomas to “righteously live up to its free speech convictions and namesake by allowing students to host controversial campus speakers.”

Campus Reform reached out to the University of St. Thomas and made the best effort to contact Crouse. This article will be updated accordingly. 

Follow @kliseanderson on Twitter.