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Friday, May 03, 2013

Was a commencement speaker at Morehouse College disinvited?

While it's great that my alma mater was able to get the President of the United States to speak at this year's commencement ceremonies it's unfortunate that it's hit the press that there's some controversies around one of the other speakers.
A prominent pastor was allegedly disinvited from speaking at Morehouse College’s baccalaureate service this week after he criticized President Barack Obama, who will deliver the school’s commencement address.

The Rev. Kevin Johnson, a Morehouse alumnus and the senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia, Pa., wrote an opinion column earlier this month in the Philadelphia Tribune accusing Obama of neglecting the black community in his cabinet picks–they’re overwhelmingly white–and broader political agenda.

The day after the article ran, Johnson said, Morehouse President John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. phoned to express reservations about his “untimely” comments regarding President Obama. Johnson asked administrators to honor their invitation, but learned days later he had been replaced by three alternate speakers.

Now, a group of two dozen pastors who lead churches across the country are demanding Morehouse re-invite Johnson.
As always, I realize there are always two sides to every story and the current President of Morehouse denies that Rev. Johnson had been disinvited:
That being said, I pause to write to you now regarding a related matter that is germane to our educational mission, but one that has regretfully generated quite a bit of distraction in recent days. In brief, I extended an invitation to a distinguished alumnus to speak at our upcoming Baccalaureate service. I subsequently made a decision to adjust the format of the Baccalaureate program and opted for a more creative, multi-speaker approach that is used by many leading institutions.  This sharing of the stage comports with the spirit of upholding democratic ideals, including freedom of speech and expression, and is entirely consistent with the spirit of camaraderie that Morehouse holds dear.

As president, I believe this is in the best interest of the college. In this instance, I decided to ask this invited speaker to share the Baccalaureate stage with two other speakers so as to reflect a broader and more inclusive range of viewpoints.

To my chagrin, my decision has been wrongly construed by some as an effort to “disinvite” this individual. He was not disinvited, but rather declined to participate in the format. Worse yet, this decision has led to allegations of censorship, which of course has no place in any viable academic institution. These allegations are fundamentally deleterious and are undeserved.
I first got wind of this story via Instapundit earlier this week. Just to note it's considered a right-wing blog!

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