Catholic University of St. Thomas Rejects Black Pro-Life Speaker, Permits Transgender Speakers

Administrators at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic university and private college in Minnesota, censored the appearance of prominent pro-life and black speaker Star Parker. On April 21, 2008, Star – the best-selling author of numerous books – was slated to speak on campus about the devastating impact abortion has on minority communities. UST Vice President of Student Affairs Jane Canney nixed the idea entirely, citing "concerns" that the lecture was being underwritten by Young America's Foundation.

Katie Kieffer, a 2005 alumna of St. Thomas and founder of the independent conservative newspaper on campus, the St. Thomas Standard, as well as the non-profit Conservative Student News Inc., was an organizer of the Star Parker lecture. She confronted Canney on her refusal to allow Star on campus.

"Our Catholic university has hosted two decidedly liberal speakers in the past year, Al Franken and Debra Davis, an outspoken transgender woman," Kieffer wrote in the St. Thomas Standard.

Kieffer alleges that Jane Canney told Katie and her sister, Amie Kieffer, a senior at St. Thomas and editor of the St. Thomas Standard, "As long as I am a vice president at St. Thomas, the Young America's Foundation will not be allowed on campus." Canney didn't return the Foundation's phone calls seeking comment.

The Student Life Committee, on which Jane Canney resides, denied the Students for Human Life and the St. Thomas Standard a room on campus for Star Parker's lecture. The young conservatives needed only a room and advertising space in order to host Parker since Young America's Foundation and Conservative Student News Inc. were covering all other costs.

Canney's hostility toward Young America's Foundation originated when the Foundation sponsored Ann Coulter at St. Thomas two years ago – an event that attracted more than 750 students. Canney claimed she felt "uncomfortable" and "disturbed" while listening to Coulter, adding that she will never allow another Foundation-sponsored speaker on campus again.

"Canney should not deprive students the right to hear Star Parker's ideas," said Jason Mattera, the spokesman for Young America's Foundation. "Such guilt-by-association is unbecoming of a college administrator."

"Just because some students and some administrators claimed to have been offended by what one conservative speaker says doesn't mean you cut off the entire campus population from hearing conservatives' viewpoints," Mattera continued.

"It's startling that a school named after one of the greatest thinkers in civilization is displaying such anti-intellectualism. Let's treat college students like the adults they are – allow them to hear a variety of speakers and form their own conclusions."

Young America's Foundation sponsors more than 500 lectures annually featuring a wide array of the very best in the Conservative Movement, including John Ashcroft, Michelle Malkin, Dinesh D'Souza, Sean Hannity, Bay Buchanan, Ann Coulter, and many others.

Liberal speakers at St. Thomas receive full support from the school's administration. Just this past year Canney's Student Life Committee approved the appearance of Debra Davis, a transgendered activist and pro-abortion politician Al Franken.

Katie Kieffer commented: "As an alumna of St. Thomas, I am embarrassed that the vice president of Student Affairs, Jane Canney, makes key decisions based on impulse and feelings. I am embarrassed that a vice president at this Catholic institution is making it virtually impossible for conservatives to bring conservative speakers to campus. For a person in charge of Campus Life on a Catholic campus, she is closed to our efforts to present conservative and Catholic pro-life values."

"Star Parker is enthusiastic about educating young people about abortion's demoralizing effects, ideas which are in complete alignment with St. Thomas' stated positions and Catholic teachings. Based on her behavior, Jane Canney seems unduly hostile toward conservative values," says Kieffer. "St. Thomas' commitment to diversity and intellectual inquiry appears to be threadbare at best."

On April 18, 2005, the university's president, Father Dennis Dease, accused Ann Coulter of "vulgarizing" his campus. Young America's Foundation commented "Father Dease's ire should've been directed at the leftist hecklers who interrupted Coulter's speech by yelling expletives at her."

A spokesman for the University was not available for comment on this story.

To politely express concerns contact:

Janney Canney

and Father Dease

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage