Officials at Grand Canyon University, the largest Christian university in the United States, last week blocked conservative commentator Ben Shapiro from speaking on campus as part of an upcoming Young Americans Foundation event.
Now, the university is facing criticism after officials released a lengthy statement explaining the decision to bar Shapiro.
What's the background?
In a scathing statement Friday, YAF spokesman Spencer Brown revealed that GCU officials told students the university would not "provide a venue" for Shapiro's upcoming speech.
In a meeting with students last Thursday, officials gave three reasons, according to YAF:
- Allowing Shapiro on GCU's campus would not be good for the school long-term
- Shapiro's approach instigates a divisive atmosphere
- GCU wants to maintain its culture of unity, love, respect and having all student voices on campus heard
School administrators reportedly also said that Shapiro's speech style is divisive and "cut throat." Additionally, YAF reported that GCU president Brian Mueller personally approved denying Shapiro a venue, believing the university would dodge negative media attention.
Brown said in a statement: "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. 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."
What did the school say?
As the story generated momentum and backlash online, GCU officials released a public statement explaining why the university chose to block Shapiro from speaking on campus.
"We believe in many of the things that Ben Shapiro speaks about and stands for, including his support for ideals that grow out of traditional Judeo-Christian values and his belief in a free market economy," the statement said. "Our decision to cancel Shapiro's speaking engagement is not a reflection of his ideologies or the values he represents, but rather a desire to focus on opportunities that bring people together."
The statement explains:
If you ask students what the key differentiators are that made them choose GCU, their responses will center around our Christian mission and the strength of our campus culture. It has fostered a community in which students from all sectors of society feel welcomed in an environment where they can find their purpose while attending GCU.
In short, it has created a unique and united community where – no matter their political differences – people come together as one to make a difference in the world around them. Jesus Christ taught us that Christians should live as the salt and light of the world by loving our neighbors as ourselves, and that is happening here in real and tangible ways.
Acknowledging that the decision generated disappointment, officials said: "It was not our intent to disappoint or offend anyone. It was, rather, to use our 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."
"If you look at America's history, the Church has been at its best when it has worked to achieve the kind of peace that Jesus commended: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9, ESV). Making peace in a way that honors Christ is something we will continue to try to do," the statement concluded.