An Arizona Christian university has canceled a speech from conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, saying that while they support much of what he stands for they want to focus on opportunities that foster unity in a divided time.
In a statement Friday, Grand Canyon University, an evangelical school in Phoenix that was founded in 1949 by Southern Baptists, explained that they moved to block the event in light of the polarized climate in the United States.
"We believe in many of the things that Ben Shapiro speaks about and stands for, including his support for ideals that grow out of traditional Judeo-Christian values and his belief in a free market economy," the university said.
"Our decision to cancel Shapiro’s speaking engagement is not a reflection of his ideologies or the values he represents, but rather a desire to focus on opportunities that bring people together."
In light of the division in America and the high volume of rhetoric, the university aims to posture itself in an action-oriented way in order to contribute to community-building and solving problems in society. To do that, the school has developed a plan to collaborate with groups like Habitat for Humanity to rebuild the inner-city, reducing crime in their neighborhood through a $1.6 million partnership with the city law enforcement to pay for police overtime.
"We hope it is a model that is emulated by others and builds strong communities where people can live and prosper in harmony, no matter their differences," GCU explained.
"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 school said, grounding their rationale with the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:9.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” the verse, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, reads.
GCU concluded: "Making peace in a way that honors Christ is something we will continue to try to do."
Penny Nance, president of the Concerned Women for America was not impressed, noting that the purpose of a college education should involve exposure to a variety of viewpoints.
"My alma mater @LibertyU recently hosted @benshapiro @SenSanders and #PresidentJimmyCarter Isn’t that the point of the university experience? To learn, think and grow?" she tweeted Monday.
"@GCU not your job to shield your students from diverse thought. I am embarrassed for you."
Shapiro, who hosts The Ben Shapiro Show and is also the editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire, had been invited by to speak by the GCU chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student group. He was one of the featured speakers this year at the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
In response to the school denying Shapiro an on-campus venue, YAF spokesman Spencer Brown said it was all too familiar given that UC-Berkeley did something similar to Shapiro in 2017, calling GCU's decision "pathetic."
“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. 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,” he said Friday, according the Daily Wire.
GCU YAF also weighed in, saying they were disappointed.
"We cannot understand why our school would refuse to host someone who is a tireless advocate for traditional Judeo-Christian values,” the student group commented.
In an op-ed for National Review, columnist David French argued that GCU's explanation for cancelling Shapiro was "simultaneously self-righteous and cowardly."
"At the outset, [the statement] acknowledges that the school agrees with 'many of the things that Ben Shapiro speaks about and stands for,'" French continued, "but then it (nonsensically) claims that 'our decision to cancel Shapiro’s speaking engagement is not a reflection of his ideologies or the values he represents, but rather a desire to focus on opportunities that bring people together.'"
French also argued that while GCU claimed it wanted to avoid division, its actions were "inherently divisive."
"It’s an explicit rebuke and rejection of the (many) people who wanted to hear Shapiro speak," he wrote.