University of Wyoming punishes church elder for protesting biological male’s admission to sorority

"Open dialogue and bold pursuit of reality is the proper environment for higher education, not safe spaces."

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

A Wyoming church elder has had his tabling privileges revoked for a year by the University of Wyoming (UW) after he set up a table on campus calling a trans-identified male student "a male," causing a group of lawmakers to denounce the decision.

According to the Star Tribune, on Dec 2, Laramie Faith Community Church elder Todd Schmidt displayed a sign in the Wyoming Union breezeway saying "God Created Male and Female and [Artemis Langford] is a male." Langford is a trans-identified male student who was accepted into the Kappa Kappa Gamma UW sorority earlier this year.

A group of students surrounded the table to block the elder's message from view until Dean Ryan O'Neil arrived and asked Schmidt to remove the student's name, reported the UW student newspaper the Branding Iron at the time.

Schmidt cooperated and was allowed to remain on campus, but the university later decided to revoke Schmidt's tabling rights for one year after conducting a "deeper assessment."

This assessment concerned an examination of university policies and federal case law with regard to freedom of expression and harassment, UW spokesperson Chad Baldwin told the Star Tribune.

"While freedom of expression is cherished on this campus and across this nation, a line was crossed when a student was harassed by name," UW President Ed Seidel said in a statement on Dec 5, while explaining that the "heated exchanges" that had taken place between Schmidt and some students that day were not "in obvious violation of UW policies."

However, a letter sent to the University of Wyoming on Dec 9, signed by 25 lawmakers including nine House Freedom Caucus members as well as secretary of state-elect Chuck Gray, denounced the decision and called it a violation of Schmidt’s First Amendment rights.

The signatories of the letter demand a reversal of the "direction that the culture of our university is taking."

"Open dialogue and bold pursuit of reality is the proper environment for higher education, not safe spaces," reads the letter which also requests that the school not use taxpayer money for "this type of subject matter and accommodation."

The letter went on to ask that the university "refocus on serious intellectual inquiry and subject matter" and "cherish and protect" First Amendment rights.

According to the Star Tribune, the letter also repeats the same message that Schmidt displayed, saying that a "biological man has been allowed to reside in a women’s sorority…because he believes himself to be a woman."

An open letter requesting that the UW permanently ban Schmidt from tabling at the Wyoming Union has been circulated by a UW Alumna and has so far garnered 382 signatures. The letter also demands a zero-tolerance harassment policy and requests de-escalation training for Wyoming Union workers and the UW Police Department. In addition, it asks for an apology to the LGBTQ community on campus.

Langford was accepted into the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority by majority vote, but local news at the time stated there was concern within the community about living situations and use of facilities in what was once a female-only house. However, none felt comfortable publicly commenting for fear of backlash. 

The UW Dean of Students has yet to respond to the Post Millennial’s request for comment.


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