Baptist University Nixes Jon Meacham Speech on Civil Discourse Amid Anti-Abortion Pressure

A Baptist university in Alabama has disinvited Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham from the inauguration of its new president after students called on the school to do so over his past support for Planned Parenthood.

An online petition urging school administrators at Samford University to cancel a scheduled speech by the author had received more than 1,000 signatures as of Saturday afternoon.

Meacham, who has penned biographies on Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, was initially set to talk next week about civic discourse at the inauguration of the school's new president, Beck Taylor, AL.com reported.

But in a letter sent Wednesday, Taylor wrote that the university would reschedule the address due to student concerns that Meacham has previously supported Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides a variety of women's health-care, including abortion, services, AL.com reported.

"Jon Meacham is significantly involved with the Planned Parenthood organization. He has spoken at their fundraising events, his book is used for the Planned Parenthood fundraiser, and overall his beliefs and core values do not align with those of Samford University, as it is a Southern Baptist institution," the petition reads.

Meacham spoke at a Planned Parenthood event in Texas earlier this month, according to the San Antonio Express. During the event, he addressed divisions in the United States, speaking about "an hour of remarkable peril" in the state after it banned most abortions.

Taylor wrote that the invitation did not reflect the school's stance on abortion and that Meacham (a former Newsweek editor-in-chief) was not planning to speak about the issue, AL.com reported.

He wrote that while he supports free expression at the university, he disinvited Meacham to not take away from the purpose of the event, according to AL.com.

"Although I am disappointed by the narrative that has combined important conversations about pro-life issues and Mr. Meacham's planned appearance at Samford, it is vitally important to me that next week's events unify and draw our community together to celebrate the history and future of Samford University, a place we love and for which we all care deeply," he said, according to the publication. "Unexpectedly, Mr. Meacham's planned lecture has become a divisive issue, one that takes attention away from our opportunity to celebrate Samford."

In a statement to Newsweek, a university spokesperson wrote that Meacham's speech will be rescheduled.

"Mr. Meacham, who is a noted historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential biographer, has been invited to our campus to highlight his work in analyzing the current state of civility and discourse in our country. We look forward to hosting him at a later date," the statement said.

Newsweek reached out to a Meacham spokesperson Saturday afternoon but had not heard back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.

Jon Meacham
Samford University disinvited writer Jon Meacham (above) from speaking at an event over his previous support of Planned Parenthood. Here, he speaks at the Democratic Convention on August 20, 2020. DNCC via Getty Images