On Monday evening, Christopher Hitchens spoke about atheism to a group of Air Force Academy cadets.
Twelve of them.
This is a guy who could sell out lecture halls. How is it possible that only twelve people showed up to hear him?
Simple. He wasn’t allowed on campus.
The Colorado Springs Independent‘s Anthony Lane writes this:
… The cadets, warned by Academy officials that Hitchens would not be allowed to lecture on campus, quietly arranged a more intimate gathering publicized only by e-mails and word of mouth.
Hitchens was invited to Colorado Springs by Kyle Southard, a second-year cadet active with a student-run Jewish congregation and the Cadet Interfaith Council. Despite feeling that the Academy tolerates many religions, Southard felt a “vast lack of understanding” about those without faith.
Hitchens was willing to visit on his own dime, but officials “recommended” that the students not ask for him to be invited to speak on campus, says Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth.
That recommendation was made because of comments by Hitchens judged to be “degrading to others,” Ashworth says, and would have applied equally if he espoused evangelical Christianity. (Self-described former-terrorists-turned-evangelicals, who spoke on campus last year, were allowed as part of a terror briefing, Ashworth says.)
Apparently, saying religion has its faults is degrading, but it’s perfectly ok to push Bibles onto citizens of countries we invade and hear Evangelicals speak about their faith when they believe non-religious people are going to Hell for eternity.
Kudos to Southard for reaching out to Hitchens and putting together the event. I wonder if anyone there notices the irony of not allowing Hitchens to speak on campus while fighting to protect rights like free speech.
(Thanks to Margaret for the link!)