Samford has long been criticized for its notorious “bubble.” As the nation polarizes, Samford has become an echo chamber of conservatism with a habit of silencing dissent.
On Oct. 26, a Samford junior created a petition to remove historian Jon Meacham’s speech from the itinerary of Dr. Beck Taylor’s inauguration week because of Meacham’s involvement with Planned Parenthood. The petition has received over 1,000 signatures from students, parents, and alumni. As a result, Meacham’s lecture about his book, “Soul of America: The Battle of Our Better Angels” will be postponed until after the inauguration.
However, Taylor issued a statement on October 27, saying, “Our mission as a Christ-centered institution of higher learning is to stand boldly at the intersection of society and the church and to convene important conversations about how to live faithfully in the world. That mission calls us to invite speakers and artists to campus who challenge our perspectives and who share wisdom and insights.”
President Taylor is right. Though Samford has its foundations in Christianity, it is still an institution of higher learning, and intellectualism can only be pursued in an environment that nurtures divergent viewpoints and encourages discourse.
The petition states that Meacham’s “beliefs and core values do not align with those of Samford University.” It goes on to say, “Mr. Meacham is involved with raising money in support of an organization that does not value life in the same way the Christian faith does.”
As a pro-choice Christian, I disagree with this sentiment. Often on this campus, I have been told by my peers that I do not count as a Christian because of my liberal politics. However, the United Church of Christ, the denomination I grew up with, has supported reproductive justice since the 1960s.
Christianity is comprised of many vibrant denominations with varying viewpoints on political and social issues. Jon Meacham himself is a Christian. According to Pew Research Center, 33% of Evangelical Protestants and 48% of Catholics in the United States believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
In the wake of recent protests, Samford administration has branded itself as welcoming diversity, and yet, the explosive response to Meacham’s invitation to speak has proven that the Samford community is only willing to elevate voices within the conservative Baptist evangelical tradition.
Jon Meacham and speakers like him must be permitted to speak on campus regardless of their political leanings. It is time for Samford to actually live up to their promise of religious diversity.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Samford Crimson.