Harvard Community Responds to Controversial Social Transformations Conference

The letter below comes from three members of the Harvard University community, challenging a controversial April 1-2 conference held on campus, Social Transformation By the Power of God, which will feature a host of speakers with a background of anti-gay and anti-Islam beliefs. More than 2,000 Change.org members have urged Harvard University student groups and university officials to address this controversial conference, and step in to make sure that Harvard is not giving a soapbox to extremism. For more background on this conference, click here.

Tomorrow, Friday April 1, students from Harvard Divinity School and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will gather to make public what’s really going on with the Social Transformations Conference. This is not another benign leadership conference .

Rather, Lance Wallnsau, one of the speakers at this conference, has openly blamed Islam, homosexuality, and abortion for the “downfall” of our society, not to mention Os Hillman’s financial ties to legislation in Uganda that advocates for the death penalty or life sentence as a punishment for LGBT people.

Besides the obvious issues we have with these stances, there are some additional concerns that we would like to put on the table. For all the discussion in the conference website about the long standing connection to religious education at Harvard, no one at the Divinity School–whose very purpose is the study and practice of religion–has been brought into any part of the planning. This is not a conversation. Behind closed doors, hateful rhetoric will reinforce hateful ideas and all under the name “Harvard.”

Furthermore, this conference has prominently displayed the Harvard Extension School shield and the Harvard name in advertisements. Let us be clear: the organizers of this conference have co-opted the Harvard name and logo to legitimize their agenda.

Representing both students of religion and people of faith, we refuse to let this message of hate go unanswered. As members of Queer Rites, HDS Shura’: The Islamic Forum, DUCCS, HUUMS, the International Socialist Organization, and Friends at HDS we want to send a clear message to the Social Transformations Conference: we are watching and we will not be silenced.

And to the administration and the rest of Harvard, we have one question: why is the Social Transformations Conference happening on Harvard’s campus?

We will gather peacefully outside the NW Science Center (52 Oxford St) at 4:30 on Friday, April 1 to deliver these messages.

Signed on behalf of many,

by Sierra Fleenor, Hammad Alam, and Amanda Ginsberg

If you would like to get involved with a response to the conference, please contact Sierra Fleenor atsfleenor@mail.harvard.edu.


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