Famed creationist Ken Ham was able to deliver a protest-free presentation at a packed auditorium at the University of Oklahoma on Monday even though he had been previously disinvited from campus after LGBT activists complained about his biblical beliefs on marriage.
On Monday, Ham, the president of the Christian apologetics organization Answers in Genesis (AiG), presented his talk on "Genesis and the State of the Culture," which was aimed at examining the ideas of Charles Darwin.
"It's a win for freedom of speech. It's a win for the First Amendment," Ham told Oklahoma's News 4 on Monday.
Ham was invited to speak on campus by UCO's student body, but the invitation was later rescinded after some members of the Women's Research Center and BGLTQ+ Student Center expressed concern about Ham's biblical belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Stockton Duvall, president of UCO's student body, had stated last month that the "bullying" by gay-rights activists had contributed to his decision to rescind the invitation to Ham. He had expressed disappointment about the reaction of some of his fellow students about Ham's speaking engagement.
"I am not the first person to be personally attacked by a very vocal group on campus that has little tolerance for opposing viewpoints," Duvall said in a Feb. 7 statement, as reported by Religion News Service.
After the controversy made national headlines, Ham was re-invited by UCO President Don Betz to deliver his presentation as part of a two-day freedom of expression forum.
Betz pointed to the university's historic commitment to critical and civil examination of ideas, no matter how controversial.
Joe Hight, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former newspaper editor who holds the E.K. Gaylord Endowed Chair of Journalism Ethics at UCO, noted that the controversy was not just about free speech but also about whether student activity funds can be used to pay for Ham's fee.
UCO spokeswoman Adrienne Nobles said that Betz had paid for the fee through unrestricted donations made to the university by individuals and organizations.
One person reportedly stood with a sign to protest Ham outside the building where the event was held, but no disruptions were heard during the presentation. At the end of the talk, Ham was joined by AiG faculty member Georgia Purdom to answer written, anonymous questions from the audience.
Ham had told KOCO News 5 on Monday that he was surprised when he learned that his invitation had been rescinded.
"Anyone who is a conservative speaker or Christian, we're finding the free speech, free exercise of religion is sort of being curtailed in the secular universities. So, then I thought, 'What? Oklahoma, too?'" Ham said.
When asked about his key message to students, Ham said: "What do you believe about where you came from that affects your whole worldview? That affects your worldview of the present and your view of the future? So sure you're got the right understanding of who you are and where you came from."