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Wednesday, February 29,2012

Christian author meets protest in speaking visit to OU

By Daniella Limoli
Photo Credits: Photo by Daniella Limoli.
Photo Caption: Kavin Shah, Amelia Shaw, Lindsay Schneider and Psyche Castro hold a sign in protest of Christian author Frank Turek’s presentation at Baker Center Tuesday night.

The controversial Christian author and speaker Frank Turek was greeted by a silent protest when he arrived at Ohio University's Baker Center Monday night to deliver a talk on his book, "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist."

Ratio Christi, a student organization that seeks to use logic and intellectual reasoning to defend Christian beliefs, organized to bring Turek to OU after he gave the first part of his talk last year.

About 25 members and supporters of OU's LGBTQ student organization, Open Doors, held signs that read "Standing On The Side Of Love" outside of Baker Ballroom in protest.

Ratio Christi president Josh Welch said, "We respect the right of people to protest, and we hope that they respect our rights too."

The Rev. Evan Young, the campus minister at University Campus Ministries and the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens, said that he took part in the silent protest in opposition to the views expressed in Turek's other book, "Correct, Not Politically Correct; How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone."

"As a longtime advocate and ally for the LGBTQ community here at Ohio University and in Athens and in southeastern Ohio," Young said, "I feel like when that community finds itself threatened with being pushed to the margins, finds itself facing the message of hate or the purveyor of hate against them, my place is with them. I stand with them."

Young added that he considers Turek's "messages opposing gay marriage, messages vilifying lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for acting on their sexual orientation" homophobic.

Young said he and Open Doors also opposed the funding allotted by the Student Appropriations Committee (SAC) to bring Turek to OU. A commission of the OU Student Senate, SAC is responsible for distributing fees from the student general fund for campus programming. The SAC website states that funds are "allocated to registered student organizations for programs conducted on-campus for the benefit of the entire university community."

He charged that SAC's process is flawed. "I have grave concerns about the way the Senate Appropriations Committee makes funding decisions," Young said. "I believe that there needs to be greater transparency and greater accountability in the basis on which those decisions are made and the outcomes of those decisions."

In OU's online publication, The New Political, Open Doors co-chair Michael Pistrui said that it was his understanding that Ratio Christi "basically lied to SAC" by not disclosing Turek's "outspoken ways when it comes to LGBT issues."

Ratio Christi's Welch said this wasn't the case. "We definitely didn't lie to SAC. We were bringing Frank Turek here to give a talk about rational evidence for Christianity, which has nothing to do with same-sex marriage," Welch said. "And the fact that they were construing us as lying, I felt, was a misrepresentation."

He added, "I think the fact that SAC funded our event demonstrates that the SAC funding committee believes that the event promotes the values of Ohio University as set forth in the 5 Cs."

Junior outdoor recreations major Kelsey Heck said that she attended Turek's talk last year as well and appreciated both of his visits.

"I thought that he brought up some interesting points that you don't normally hear," she said. "I also loved how he opened the floor for questions and allowed anyone to ask him things about his talk or just in general. He was honest in his opinion and respectful of others' opinions."

Heck added that she respected the attitude of the protesters, too. "I appreciated that they were silent and not outwardly angry," she said. "That was respectful, and I'm glad that they stayed and watched him talk, even though they might not have agreed with what he was saying."

Senior dance major Ashley Youmell also listened to last year's lecture. "I knew (that) someone who had debated with some of the most well-known atheists would have points that held up to scrutiny," she said. "I thought he did a really good job at pointing people to the truth and teaching them how they can find validity in it. He also brought up good points on the historical accuracy of the Bible that I didn't know."

Turek did not address the subject of homosexuality during his talk. However, when asked during the question and answer session if homosexuality is objectively, immorally wrong, Turek said, "That's a theological question, and if the Bible's true, then the answer would be yes. Not homosexuality, but homosexual behavior. It depends on what you mean by homosexuality. Look, we all have feelings we ought not act on. I have feelings I ought not act on."

He added, "But that's not the only sin in the world. I'm a sinner, too, and I have to come to the foot of the cross like everyone else."


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