Christian University Withdraws Invitation for Historian Over Planned Parenthood Ties

A conservative Christian university in Birmingham, Alabama, rescinded its invitation for historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham to speak this week after it received complaints about his previous appearances at Planned Parenthood events, the Associated Press reported.

Meacham was scheduled to give an address Wednesday during inaugural events for Samford University's new president. However, an online petition that racked up about 1,030 signatures by Tuesday morning spurred the school to cancel his appearance.

The petition said that Meacham's "beliefs and core values do not align with those of Samford University, as it is a Southern Baptist institution," and described his scheduled address as "alarming for the future of Samford." Planned Parenthood provides abortions and other reproductive health services in the U.S. and beyond.

Beck A. Taylor, the university's new president, said in a letter posted on Samford's website last week that Meacham's appearance was meant to "highlight his work in analyzing the current state of civility and discourse in our country," rather than address the topic of abortion, according to the AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Jon Meacham Speech Canceled
A Christian university rescinded its invitation for historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham to speak this week after the school received complaints about his appearances at Planned Parenthood events in the past. Above, Meacham delivers a speech during the dedication ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral for the cathedral's new stone carving of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Washington. Gemmuru Amarasinghe/AP Photo

Despite Taylor's letter, the Samford Student Government Association and others recommended postponing Meacham's talk, Taylor said, so his appearance during inaugural activities was canceled and the school will try to schedule another time for him to speak.

"Unexpectedly, Mr. Meacham's planned lecture has become a divisive issue, one that takes attention away from our opportunity to celebrate Samford. I regret that this has happened," Taylor said.

A representative for Meacham did not immediately return an email seeking comment. Meacham spoke at a luncheon held for Planned Parenthood of South Texas on Oct. 6, according to the organization's website.

In the letter announcing the cancellation, Taylor said he found Meacham's insights "to be both challenging and inspiring."

"Our mission as a Christ-centered institution of higher learning is to stand boldly at the intersection of society and the church and to convene important conversations about how to live faithfully in the world. That mission calls us to invite speakers and artists to campus who challenge our perspectives and who share wisdom and insights," Taylor said.

Samford, which was established by the Alabama State Baptist Convention, has an enrollment of about 5,700 undergraduate and graduate students and includes a divinity school. Students are required to attend campus worship or faith-related events to graduate.

Meacham won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for his political biography of President Andrew Jackson, American Lion. His New York Times best-selling books include The Hope of Glory, which examines the final sayings of Jesus.

Meacham Speech Canceled
Jon Meacham was scheduled to give an address Wednesday during inaugural events for Samford University’s new president, but an online petition that racked up about 1,030 signatures by Tuesday morning spurred the school to cancel his appearance. Meacham speaks about the historical changes in politics during the Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo