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Ken Ham re-invited to university despite protest

EDMOND, Okla. (BP) — Christian apologist Ken Ham has been re-invited to speak at an Oklahoma university by the school’s president after the student government rescinded its speaking invitation, allegedly under pressure from a campus LGBT group.

“I’m thrilled my talk at [the University of Central Oklahoma] is back on again,” Ham, founder of the Answers in Genesis (AiG) apologetics ministry, said in a news release. “UCO officials have definitely heard from many concerned state legislators, several local residents and alumni about the denial of our right to free speech.”

UCO President Don Betz announced today (Feb. 15) in an email to the university community that he has invited Ham to deliver a lecture March 5 as part of a two-day event focusing on freedom of expression. The March 5-6 event also will include a presentation on the First Amendment, a panel discussion on freedom of speech at UCO and a discussion of “scientific inquiry and evolution,” Betz wrote.

Ham’s lecture will be titled “Genesis and the State of the Culture,” according to his news release.

Betz noted UCO “has been at the nexus of an extensive external and internal debate” about Ham’s invitation. “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 principles of civil discourse and the pursuit of knowledge.”

The UCO Student Association had invited Ham to speak March 5 about the ideas of Charles Darwin, Baptist Press reported previously, but the Student Association canceled Ham’s appearance Jan. 27. Student body president Stockton Duvall said members of an LGBT campus group had “personally attacked” him and “tried to bully” him into rescinding Ham’s invitation, according to The Oklahoman newspaper.

Ham, whose AiG organization built the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter in Kentucky, wrote in a Feb. 8 blog post that the UCO Student Association “reluctantly” rescinded his original invitation under “intense pressure” from an unnamed LGBT campus advocacy group.

Following the cancelation, UCO’s Student Alliance for Equality, an LGBT advocacy group, said in a statement it is “fully committed to upholding and safeguarding free speech,” including “the right of speakers to express opinions that may differ from others in the community, as well as the right of the community members to challenge those positions” and ask questions about “the allocation of our student body’s shared resources.”

The UCO administration had told student leaders it would support any decision they made regarding Ham’s invitation, The Oklahoman reported.

Ham’s lecture, rescheduled for 3 p.m., will be followed by a lecture by AiG molecular geneticist Georgia Purdom. Both AiG apologists then will participate in a question-and-answer session, AiG stated.

“By moving my talk from [its originally scheduled time in] the evening to the afternoon,” Ham said, “we now have the opportunity to reach even more UCO students during the school day. UCO is a commuter campus, and many of its students might not have been able to attend in the evening.”

Ham added, “I’m thankful for the many Oklahomans who stood up for our constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.”