The largest Christian university is under fire for canceling a speech from Jewish conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. The school cited "biblical truths" and a fear that he would divide the school's "unique and united community."
Grand Canyon University officials told students from the Young America's Foundation (YAF) chapter at GCU of their decision Thursday. The decision immediately drew a firestorm of criticism.
“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,” YAF spokesman Spencer Brown said in a statement. “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.”
In a statement released Friday, GCU administrators acknowledged the school's decision to block the Daily Wire editor-in-chief and host of The Ben Shapiro Show, saying they knew it "obviously disappointed and offended" some in the Phoenix community.
"We know that if we had made a different decision, we would have disappointed and offended others within the same community," the statement reads. "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."
The Christian university also references "a very divided America" and the school's mission to achieve the kind of peace that Jesus called for in the Scriptures: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
Of the dozens of schools Shapiro has spoken at, only a handful resulted in protests or a dangerous situation at ultra-liberal campuses like the University of California, Berkeley. Multiple people were arrested in Berkeley after mass protests broke out because of his speech.
According to the YAF students, GCU administrators "specifically cited DACA students and what Shapiro may say about immigration" as grounds for canceling the speech.
Shapiro responded on Twitter: "I’m libertarian on immigration in a non-welfare, non-criminal, non-citizenship scenario, so not sure what the objection would be."
In November, Gonzaga University in Washington State blocked Shapiro from speaking on campus, citing the school's Christian mission to "stand in solidarity " with marginalized communities and protect students from a hostile campus environment, according to the Washington Times.