Worcester Telegram: Catholics and Muslims "have no reason to fear what Mr. Spencer has to say. His is an important voice in the ongoing debate over the nature of Islam."
I am very surprised and grateful to see a mainstream media editorial coming to my defense. Kudos and thanks to the Worcester Telegram for their clear-sightedness and commitment to the truth.
Here, meanwhile, is the petition that is circulating asking Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester to allow me to speak after all.
"Catholic speakers: Conference disinvites Islam expert," from the Worcester Telegram, February 3 (thanks to A.):The Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester’s decision to disinvite Robert Spencer as a speaker at the annual Catholic Men’s Conference on March 16 calls to mind the controversy a year ago over Anna Maria College’s decision to withdraw an invitation to Victoria Reggie Kennedy to speak at its commencement.
In the earlier case, the decision to withdraw the invitation was left to Anna Maria officials after the diocese informed them that Bishop Robert J. McManus could not and would not attend an event if Ms. Kennedy was the speaker. In this latest case, Bishop McManus himself pulled the invitation that had been issued to Mr. Spencer.
Monsignor Thomas Sullivan, lead organizer of the men’s conference, told the Telegram & Gazette that some groups, including members of the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester, perceive Mr. Spencer as anti-Islamic. While the diocese does not share that view, he said, the invitation was withdrawn to avoid “a media outcry.”
While the details differ, both cases are very much about the diocese exercising its right to shape the form and message of distinctively Catholic events.
Anna Maria is, after all, a Catholic school, and while Catholic institutions of higher education are as devoted to open inquiry as any other school, they have an additional obligation: To bear Catholic values and teachings in mind when considering speakers and the composition of curriculum and events.
On balance, we believe Anna Maria did exactly the right thing in yielding to the diocese last spring and then inviting Ms. Kennedy to be the keynote speaker at its symposium “Faith and the Public Square” last fall.
As for Mr. Spencer, we suspect the popular men’s conference might see even higher attendance if he were a participant, but the diocese is obviously and entirely within its rights to determine the lineup of speakers at its own conference.
But whether the diocese avoids an outcry — in the media or among the public — remains to be seen.
Mr. Spencer is widely known and read. He has authored a dozen books, conducted seminars on Islam and jihad for the U.S. military and intelligence communities, and been a frequent guest and debate participant in a broad variety of U.S. media. Some will disagree with his conclusions, but it is difficult to argue that his is an uninformed or inconsequential voice in the public square.
Late last week, Mr. Spencer told readers of his blog that he still intends to come to Worcester, and will set up outside the conference if necessary in order to give attendees the opportunity to hear what he has to say.
Whether that happens or not, Catholics and Muslims — in the Worcester area or elsewhere — have no reason to fear what Mr. Spencer has to say. His is an important voice in the ongoing debate over the nature of Islam and its relations to other faith traditions, and one that will continue to be heard.