Rev. Kevin Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia and alumni of the famed Morehouse College, has been uninvited to speak at his alma mater after criticizing President Obama, who is slated to deliver the school’s commencement address this week.
The prominent black pastor penned an opinion column on April 14 for the Philadelphia Tribune titled, “A President for Everyone, Except Black People,” in which he criticized Obama for failing to appoint members of the black community to cabinet positions in his administration, and for his failure to address issues of poverty in the community.
After the article was published, Johnson said Morehouse President John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. phoned the pastor to ask him to step down as speaker because of his “untimely” remarks about the president. According to the East Atlanta Patch, Johnson asked school administrators to honor his invitation, only to learn that he had been replaced by not one, but three alternate speakers.
In response, Johnson said that he has “always been and continues to be a supporter of President Obama.”
“The issue is not about the article in question, but about Morehouse’s longstanding history and pedagogy of free thought and free speech. Without free thought and free speech, Morehouse would not have produced our most admired alumnus, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Now, a group of two dozen pastors are reportedly demanding that the prestigious black college change their decision and re-invite Johnson. Some even noted the “dangerous” trajectory the college will find itself on if the school penalized one of its most distinguished alumni for simply exercising free speech.
“If President Wilson turns his back on one of our most distinguished alums because of an exercise of free speech and political commentary, he will have set Morehouse on a dangerous course and departed from the great tradition bequeathed to us,” said Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, senior pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco.
“In 1947, Dr. King warned that, ‘If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, ‘brethren!’ Be careful, teachers!’ We are potentially witnessing the realization of King’s greatest fears.”