WICHITA, Kan. — A Catholic university in Wichita canceled a scheduled talk by Kansas Supreme Court Justice Carol Beier because of concerns about the tone of messages from abortion opponents who objected to the visit.
Beier was scheduled to speak Friday as part of Newman University’s Constitution Day on such topics as the Kansas constitution, the role of judges in the judicial system and how to get into law school. The speech was canceled after Newman Provost Kimberly Long became concerned about opposition expressed through social media and in messages to her, The Wichita Eagle reported.
“There were no specific threats of violence, but I found some of the things being said were quite unsettling,” said Long, who declined to discuss specific content of the messages sent to her.
“We worried about safety of students, and about perhaps having a guest on campus not be treated right,” Long said. “I hope that our civic discourse here would be respectful to all persons in the future. I felt the behaviors in some of the messages to me were not respectful.”
Diana Stanley, president of the student history club, which invited Beier, said in an email that club members were excited that the justice agreed to speak because she has more than 30 years of experience in the legal field and is a Wichita native. Opponents to Beier’s visit made statements that implied the club invited her to speak about abortion, Stanley said.
“As a student of history, I think that civil discourse is one of the bulwarks of a free society. I find disappointing that in our current political climate, even a lecture on the Kansas constitution is considered controversial,” Stanley said.
Beier has been a target of anti-abortion advocates for several years. In 2010, they launched a “Fire Beier” campaign seeking to oust her in that year’s retention election. Beier wrote majority opinions on several abortion cases, including two that criticized former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline for issues arising from investigations of abortion providers.