Editor’s Note: This op-ed by AiG president Ken Ham was printed today by Oklahoma’s leading newspaper, The Oklahoman. The column comes in the wake of the talks he and Dr. Georgia Purdom of AiG gave on Monday at the University of Central Oklahoma. The event almost did not occur.
When America’s founders assembled a Bill of Rights for their new nation, what were the first rights accorded its people in the First Amendment? Freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and in that order.
In that amendment, the government specifically pledged that it would not restrict the “free exercise” of religion. Freedom of religious expression and speech were given the highest priority in the nation’s founding. Nearly 230 years later, these freedoms were put to test on an Oklahoma campus. But as the country watched, the University of Central Oklahoma passed the test.Freedom of religious expression and speech were given the highest priority in the nation’s founding.
As president of Answers in Genesis (AiG), I was thrilled to learn a few weeks ago that I was invited to speak at UCO. Contracts were signed for me to give a lecture in UCO’s Constitution Hall on the ideas of Charles Darwin. But strong objections from LGBTQ activists on campus pushed the student body president to cancel the talk, despite a speaking invitation that had come from the student government. News stories reported on the irony that my lecture was supposed to be given in Constitution Hall and yet my constitutional right to free speech was being denied. Eventually, the UCO president intervened and invited me to speak on Monday.
UCO President Don Betz scheduled other events for UCO students and faculty this week that related to my talk and its initial cancellation. This included a public forum on the importance of preserving free speech on college campuses and maintaining civility when people disagree with a guest speaker. I have spoken at a few state-funded universities from Idaho to Ohio, and even Harvard in Massachusetts (a private institution), plus countless Christian universities, but had never encountered major opposition until this incident in the Bible Belt.
My talk on “Genesis, Science, and the Culture” in a packed hall went off without a hitch. I’m pleased to report that my presentation was not disrupted. During my lecture, I brought up some of the key points I presented during my evolution/creation debates with Bill Nye “the Science Guy” four years ago at our Creation Museum and later at the Ark Encounter. I emphasized the limitations of science when it comes to studying the unobservable past. At the same time, I indicated that various disciplines of science confirm the Bible’s record of earth history, starting in Genesis. In my talk, I also discussed how social issues of our day like abortion, racism, and the origin of marriage relate to Genesis.
Dr. Georgia Purdom of our AiG staff (she holds a PhD in molecular genetics) followed with a presentation on “Genetics and the Bible.” During the Q&A session, this scientist and I answered audience questions on the preservation of soft tissue in dinosaur bones, the origin of “races,” dog evolution, and more. This was probably the first time UCO students were exposed on campus to scientific ideas that contradict Darwinian evolution.
Vigilance is needed to ensure that academic freedom and religious freedom are maintained on Oklahoma’s campuses. Meanwhile, we thank state legislators, several UCO alumni, pastors, writers of several letters to the editor, and other Oklahomans for standing up to bullies who sought to trample on the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech and religious expression.
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