Students and faculty at Johns Hopkins University gathered en masse to sign an online petition expressing their dislike of the university's decision to have resident neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson speak at the School of Medicine graduation ceremony. Citing his recent anti-gay remarks, petition signers got their wish on Friday as Carson announced he would withdraw from the speaking position.
Carson, who is the Republicans' new favorite to run for president in 2016, told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday that he believes marriage is "a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Love Association, a pedophile advocacy group], be they people who believe in bestiality. It doesn't matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition."
Although he apologized on Friday, citing his Christian "duty" to love everyone regardless of sexual orientation, he told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell that he would withdraw as commencement speaker at the request of those who had signed the petition.
The petition states that while the undersigned respect Carson's medical contributions to the university and many see him as a role model for their work, they find him an "inappropriate choice of speaker at a ceremony intended to celebrate the achievements of our class."
Students on the university's Health and Human Rights Student Group Facebook page also cited Carson's use of his National Prayer Breakfast speech as reason to disinvite him from their commencement, saying he used a historically nonpartisan event "to deride Obamacare, advocate lower taxes for the wealthy, and suggest that Christianity requires supporting Republican policies."
Carson also said that those who believe in evolution "dismiss ethics" and "determine [their] own conscience based on [their] own desires," a view of which students were unaware at the time of his invitation to speak at commencement.
Soon after Carson's withdrawal, Rush Limbaugh took to the radio waves and declared students' dislike of Carson as a speaker choice as showing that the Republican party is losing key voters.
"Medical students! Not social workers, medical students," Limbaugh said. "To me that's evidence that ... I don't know what it is. We're losing the country or what have you."
Limbaugh continued by attempting to apply the First Amendment to his own devices, saying that it should not be used to "punish" a "thoughtful, brilliant surgeon," and even went so far as to attest that the students' outcry signaled that Carson was "not allowed to voice his opinion."
Johns Hopkins University officials have defended their speaker choice, stating that he was not chosen for his political or social views, but for his contributions to neurosurgery and the university. However, many students feared that his use of the nonpartisan National Prayer Breakfast as a platform for orating his political views was indicative of how he would speak at the similarly nonpartisan graduation ceremony.
"We hope the administration of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine will select an alternative speaker that better represents the values of our student body and of our great University," concluded the Facebook group's manifesto.
It is unknown right now who will replace Carson at the School of Medicine commencement ceremony, but for the sake of the students and the school, the university would do well to choose someone who has not garnered such an infamous political reputation.