Students and alumni voiced their concerns about the participation of Former Governor Mike Huckabee at John Brown University’s chapel service.
The group signed an online petition and will participate in a peaceful demonstration in attempts to raise awareness and start a conversation about their concerns regarding Huckabee’s civil Christian leadership.
Petitioners claim Huckabee supports unbiblical principles and object to JBU presenting Huckabee as an example of Christian civic leadership.
On “JBU Direct Action: Stand Up to Huckabee,” the Facebook group for the petition, the concerned students and alumni explained the reasons behind their petition:
“Upon collection of the information and educating ourselves, our campus, and the leadership of JBU about what troubles us about Mr. Huckabee, we intend to raise public awareness that contrasts our belief in the teachings of Jesus and those of Mr. Huckabee.”
Students and alumni researched and compiled a list of articles, interviews, tweets and Facebook posts related to Huckabee as evidence to support their cause. On their Facebook page the petitioners concluded:
“Huckabee has used his faith to promote pro-gun legislation, spread fears of Islam as violent, has a history of devastating remarks towards the LGBTQ community, mocked peaceful protest about police brutality, has promoted wall building, closed borders and has made numerous micro-aggressions on twitter about Asians, Muslims, Blacks, and people from the Middle East.”
When asked about the qualities that make Huckabee a good choice for a chapel speaker, Lucas Roebuck, chief communications officer of JBU, said that Huckabee’s “perspective as a pastor and leader in the Arkansas Baptist church who became a successful public servant makes him particularly qualified to discuss the intersection of faith and public service.”
In light of the group’s petitions, JBU’s President Chip Pollard said that it is important to remember that each chapel speaker has their own viewpoints and that “JBU does not endorse every viewpoint or everything that’s said by a chapel speaker, either in chapel or somewhere else.
Pollard said disagreement is OK but it is also important to show respect. “We just invite people from a broad Evangelical tradition and they have something to say that we should hear, agree with, disagree with, engage.”
The group requested to Pollard to make a statement clarifying JBU’s stance for “mercy and justice.” Students and alumni participating in the petition want to ensure that the University clarifies that is does not endorse the following:
- America First Christianity
- Racial injustice against minorities and immigrants
- Police Brutality
- Neglect for refugees and the closing of our borders to the most vulnerable
- Sexual Assault on Women
Nathan Fields, 2009 JBU graduate and creator of the petition, said the objective of the petition is to create and advance conversation on political and social issues.
“My hope in this conversation is that we would be able to provide another message of other than what Mr. Huckabee has promoted in his vision in the church and in his vision for America,” Fields said during a phone interview.
Fields said this demonstration is important to raise awareness among the JBU community about the “level of grievance” that inviting Huckabee to speak at chapel would cause.
To support his claims, Fields referenced a tweet written by Huckabee on November 14, 2016.
“Critics of Steve Bannon know he’s smarter and tougher than they are. When CAIR doesn’t like you that is a good thing. Bannon is a good guy.”
CAIR stands for Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization created to develop understanding of Islam and empower American Muslims. Steve Bannon is the chief strategist for Donald Trump. Bannon is the former editor of Breitbart News, a conservative website accused of being racist, sexist, and anti-Semitist. Fields said he is bothered by the prospect of Huckabee endorsing Bannon and Trump and what they stand for.
In contrast, JBU’s College Republicans expressed their excitement in Huckabee’s chapel address. On their Facebook page, they promoted Huckabee as a strong Christian with a notable history of diligent civil work.
The College Republicans said they are looking forward to hearing both sides of the political spectrum in courteous conversation.
“We urge our fellow students this Thursday to come hear another perspective. We have a great privilege to attend a university committed to bringing us a group of speaker who differ in beliefs.”
Philip Todd, current student and chairman of College Republicans, said, “My opinion is that before we judge a person on an off handed remark or a quote taken out of context, let’s listen and then challenge, process and debate. Let’s foster an environment where a diversity of thought is encouraged.”
Students at JBU heard about the petition, signed, collaborated and pieced together the silent demonstration taking place today.
Chipper Via, junior, joined the Facebook group after hearing concerns from several conversations. Taken with the prospect presented on Facebook, he became one of the admins for the page and a leader for the on-campus demonstration “Stand for Love.”
“I’ve been in staunch opposition to Mike Huckabee for a while, being from Arkansas and seeing his leadership change over the course of several years and turn into something that defies the Imago Dei in human beings that aren’t like him and don’t agree with him,” Via said.
For the demonstration, or silent protest, students and alumni said they will stand upon Huckabee’s introduction and remain standing for the duration of his speech. Also, those participating will wear white T-shirts which read “No ban, no hate, no wall,” “Lev. 24:22” and “Minority rights are human rights,” printed across.
Fields and Via unanimously encourage everyone with similar or dissimilar political standings to attend both chapel and the Q-and-A session as to engage in thoughtful conversation and gain a better perspective of Huckabee.
In light of the recent controversy surrounding last Thursday’s Spiritual Emphasis Week’s chapels and Huckabee’s upcoming visit, Pollard reminds the JBU community to be civil and graceful in expressing their deep convictions. To Pollard it is important to not only ask questions, but also hear from people that we disagree with in every side of the question.
“I just hope that we can respond to him [Huckabee] with hospitality so we can hear what he has to say in chapel and then engage with any question you want to ask at our Q-and-A session,” Pollard said.
The group of students and alumni sent a letter to the Threefold Advocate expressing their concerns to President Pollard. A day after the letter to the editor was published, Huckabee addressed the concerns of the protesters through another letter.
“We take all the feedback we get from alumni and students seriously. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, about Huckabee’s visit. Dr. Pollard has reached out personally to some of the letter’s authors, and I know he is having a constructive dialogue with them.”
Roebuck said JBU takes all the feedback they get from alumni and students seriously. He explained that Huckabee’s upcoming visit received both positive and negative responses and that Pollard “has reached out personally to some of the letter’s authors” and seeking constructive dialogue with them.
Rod Reed, university chaplain, offered advice to the student body in their response to chapel speakers with dissenting views. He suggested a posture of Christian hospitality by listening first without prejudice.
“Listening to actually understand and not just to get ammunition for an argument is as important. And that skill is sorely lacking in our world today,” Reed said.
Chapel, he said, is a sacred space and worshipful environment which should remain civil and peaceful to those who attend.
Also, Reed reminded students to love their neighbors, including chapel speakers that some may disagree with.
Mike Huckabee will be speaking at 10:30 this morning in the Cathedral of the Ozarks. A Q-and-A session will take place in Simmons Great Hall B from noon to 1 p.m. All JBU students are encouraged to attend with their questions and concerns for Huckabee.