Enemies of free speech at the University of Tulsa

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Last Tuesday night, Rosaria Butterfield, Ph.D., gave a talk on sexual identity to a standing-room-only crowd in the Great Room at the University of Tulsa's Allen Chapman Activities Center. Butterfield's visit was sponsored by several evangelical Christian groups on campus: Reformed University Fellowship, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Chi Alpha, and the TU Wesley Foundation, which are connected with the Presbyterian Church in America, the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, and United Methodist denominations, respectively.

(MORE: Here is an audio recording (MP3, 47MB, 1 hr 53 min) of Rosaria Butterfield's talk and the first half-hour or so of the Q&A that followed. Please excuse the sound of my pen and pages turning; I thoughtlessly had my recorder clipped to my notepad. I either ran out of battery or memory before the Q&A concluded.)

Prior to Butterfield's talk, an aggregation styling themselves "The Students of United Campus Ministry, Pride at TU, the Society for Gender Equality, HeadStrong, and Earth Matters" issued an open letter objecting to the event. The University of Tulsa Collegian published the open letter (PDF), along with a list of signatories and a response from the groups sponsoring the event.

United Campus Ministry is sponsored by local congregations affiliated with the PCUSA, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian Universalist denominations.

Here is an excerpt with the gist of the protest letter:

The students of United Campus Ministry, the Society for Gender Equality, HeadStrong, Earth Matters, and Pride at TU want to state publicly that we are outraged that several ministries from the university will be hosting Rosaria Champagne Butterfield on November 17th.

Mrs. Butterfield speaks openly not only about her conversion to Christianity, but also her conversion from lesbianism to straightness.

Mrs. Butterfield believes that being gay or transgender is fundamentally opposed to being Christian.

Inviting someone to speak about orientation as a spiritual or psychological weakness actively creates a hostile environment for all LGBTQ+ students.

Many of the students who are concerned about this speaker's presence on our campus identify as both Christian and LGBTQ+, and we believe that by hosting Mrs. Butterfield, these campus ministries are trying to silence our voices and invalidate our identities....

Any discussion or promotion of such practices, or suggestion that sexual orientation is not immutable is discrimination and a threat....

We will not allow our community to be harassed without responding. We will not accept hate speech on our campus without condemnation. We will not allow our loving community to be hurt by this woman's supposed wisdom. We will not be broken by your hate.

The letter follows the typical pattern of campus hostility to free speech, casting the discussion of ideas in terms of safety: "hostile environment," "a threat," "oppression," "hate speech," "safe place," "harassed." The aggressor poses as victim: They claim that that their voices are being silenced, while it is they who are attempting to silence the voices of Rosaria Butterfield and the campus organizations who invited her.

It should be noted that the night of the speech itself went surprisingly well, to the credit of the university. Protesters lined up at the top of both staircases leading to the Great Hall, holding signs but remaining silent, and not obstructing people going to the talk. (I'm not sure if that was their decision or at the insistence of campus police.) During the talk, the protesters stood along the walls to the right of and behind the audience, so they heard the speech. During the Q&A following Butterfield's talk, most if not all of the questions were from protesters and most of those seemed to be sincere inquiries, not gotcha questions. It seemed as if Butterfield's telling of her story disarmed them. When questioners started asking follow-ups (holding up a long line behind them) or making statements following the answer, Butterfield gently requested that they stick to one question and follow the ground rules.

For the record, here is the list of signatories of the open-letter, the supporters of shut-uppery at TU. (If you signed this letter and later come to regret your hostility to the free expression of ideas, contact me at the email address in the sidebar, and I'll be glad to note that you've withdrawn your support.) Alumni donors to TU should note that a couple of the signatories are departments funded by the university.

The Women's and Gender Studies Department
The University of Tulsa Institute of Trauma, Adversity and Injustice
The Student Alliance for Violence Education
Lisa Wilson
Evan Taylor, East Side Chrisitian Church
Rev. Nancy J. Eggen
Rabbi Micah Citrin
Ekklesia at Missouri State University
Rev. Robert Martin
Fr. Dewayne Messenger
Rabbi Karen Citrin
Rev. Chris Moore
Rev. Fred Turner
Rev. Susanna Weslie
Kelley Friedberg
Phill Melton
Sara N. Beam
Rev. Geoffrey Brewster
SA President Whitney House
Pride and HeadStrong President Tara Grigson
President of Society for Gender Equality Gracie Weiderhaft
Whitney Cipolla
Dr. Melinda McGarrah Sharp
United Ministry Executive Director Jennie Wachowski
Oklahomans for Equality
Lamont Lindstrom
Dr. Maralee Waidner
Mana Tahaie
ABC Vice President Kyla Sloan
Sheridan Turner
Bridget Branham
Nicole Nascenzi
Lauren Jackson
Karl G. Siewert
Isaac Sanders
James Johnson
Rosie A. Lynch
Jack Kent Cooke
Cameron Cross
Samantha Overstreet
Sonja Worthy
Cody Jackson Brown
Tina Daniels
Scott Gove
Mary Wafer-Johnston
Brynn Jellison
Zane Cawthon
Morgen Cavanah
Elizabeth Cohen
Brittany Bell
Justin DaMetz
Bronte Pearson
Alyssa Adamson
Megan Senol
Melissa Miller
Casey Mattin
Alex Wade
Sara Douglas
Charissa Schaefer
Emily Landry
Seton Lazalier
Michelle Hunter
Mariah Rubino
Nicole Flippo
Ashley Bailey
Will Schoenhals
Sierra Dyer
Ken Leep-Sills
Sharon Bishop-Baldwin
Lauren Keithley
Toby Jenkins
Don Satterthwaite
Josh Harris
Lucille Hengen
Hayley Harris
Anna Facci
Misti Yerton
Diane Bucchianeri
Abigail Obana
Robin larson
Jessica Pongonis
Stephanie Greif
Megan Curtis
Scott Arnold
Jordan Dunn Hoyt
Mark Archer
Giselle Willis
Sarah Hicks
Carly Putnam
Conor Fellin
Ronni Joe Killion
Julia Evans
Lisa Dodwell
Madison Reid
Ashley Knapp
Brian Hasse
Lauren Delucchi
Chris Madaj
Shiloh Tune
Judith E. Nole
Justin Turner
Prof. Amy Schachle
Alicia Ruskey
Deanna Tirrell
Casey Copeland
Shannon Martin
David Burch
Aiden Smith
Sean C. Conner
Laura Banks
Phillip Jennings
Grace Heaberlin
Daniela Rosales
Karyn E. Fox
Paul Meuser
Stephen Place
Laci Lynn
Sean Patrick Rooney
James Scholl
Tyler Carter
Julie Austin
Kaitlyn Marie Counter
Carlos Martos
Benjamin Buchanan
Adela M. Sanchez


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 24, 2015 9:11 PM.

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