Robert Spencer’s speech at Gettysburg College engages students in civil discourse

Nearly 400 people attended Robert Spencer's lecture in the CUB Ballroom Wednesday night

Nearly 400 people attended Robert Spencer’s lecture in the CUB Ballroom Wednesday night

By Benjamin Pontz, News Editor

As Robert Spencer took the stage of the CUB Ballroom Wednesday night, the audience seemed unsure of what would happen next. On the heels of students at the University of Buffalo shouting down Spencer last evening, Jack Ryan, Vice Provost of Gettysburg College, had warned the audience to engage in civil discourse in listening to Spencer’s speech, which was sponsored by the Gettysburg chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF).

Spencer opened his speech by commending students who attended for standing up to pressure levied on them by other members of the campus community, many of whom attended a simultaneous Muslim Solidarity Rally in front of Penn Hall.

“There is one kind of diversity that is not valued generally in an academic setting,” he said, “and that is intellectual diversity. I commend you for having the courage to brave the stigma and to come here tonight despite the tremendous pressure that was placed on you not to come.”

spencer crowd closeup

He continued by deconstructing arguments made by Dr. Todd Green, an associate professor of religion at Luther College, in a speech Sunday on “Professional Islamophobia,” something Green accused Spencer of perpetrating.

Spencer suggested that Green had committed “slander” and is part of a well-funded movement that aims to delegitimize any suggestion that jihad is an intrinsic component of Islam.

“Islamophobia is a thought-crushing device, a tool for intimidating people into being afraid for speaking out about jihad activity,” he said. “Like in any religion, there is a spectrum of belief, knowledge, and fervor among its adherents. You can’t generalize from the teachings of Islam what any individual Muslim is going to do … but these things do not nonetheless become not part of the Islamic tradition.”

Spencer cited specific quotations from the Quran — including 4:3, 4:24, and 33:50 — that ostensibly justify actions by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to condemn female prisoners of war to sex slavery.

Spencer closed his speech by suggesting that Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs, who said at Green’s lecture on Sunday that her hope was for Spencer to speak to a crowd of four or five and for the Muslim Solidarity Rally to have 2500 attendees, should either substantiate — based on Spencer’s writings — that he promotes hate and bigotry or resign.

During the subsequent question and answer session, several students posed substantive questions based on topics from Spencer’s lecture including the origin of jihad, propaganda in ISIS’s Dabiq magazine, and whether American foreign policy ultimately foments violence towards the US irrespective of religious jihad.

“I don’t believe that there is wholesale victimization of Muslims in the United States,” Spencer said, responding to a question about whether he can conduct his presentations in a way that do not make Muslims feel unsafe. He also cited statistics on hate crimes against Muslims compared to other groups, which he says support his conclusion.

In addition, Timothy Smith, a college staff member who attended the lecture, suggested that Spencer’s comments were not sufficiently insightful for the payment he received and then began to discuss his family’s military history before he relinquished the microphone to a member of YAF and, on his own volition, walked out of the event.

Later, Michael Mancuso, a sophomore member of Student Senate, asked Spencer to retract his call for Riggs to resign given that she resisted calls from members of the campus community and alumni to cancel the speech.

Spencer declined and said that there was a contract signed that included First Amendment stipulations and that, had Riggs ultimately cancelled the event, the college would have been sued. Jamie Yates, Director of Communications & Media Relations, refuted that allegation after the event and said she has no idea what made him say that.

“I think his response mischaracterizes President Riggs’ quotation and that his remarks were in poor taste,” Mancuso said.

Robert Spencer Lecture

Ultimately, the event drew a crowd that nearly filled the 400 seats that were set up in the CUB Ballroom.

Many students attended out of a curiosity to hear Spencer’s point of view amid the controversy it had caused on campus prior to the event.

“I’m interested in hearing what he has to say,” said sophomore Luca Menicali prior to the event. “Going in, I know what my viewpoints are, and I will critically analyze what he has to say. All in all, I think it was the right decision to have him come and share his thoughts with us.”

YAF President Scott Moore said he was pleased with how the event transpired.

“It surpassed expectations really,” he said. “There were no violent disruptions, no protests. I think everything went as well as it could have.”

Video of Spencer’s lecture

Video of the Q&A session after Spencer’s lecture

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Author: Benjamin Pontz

Benjamin Pontz '20 served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian from 2018 until 2020, Managing News Editor from 2017 until 2018, News Editor in the spring of 2017, and Staff Writer during the fall of 2016. During his tenure, he wrote 232 articles. He led teams that won two first place Keystone Press Awards for ongoing news coverage (once of Bob Garthwait's resignation, and the other of Robert Spencer's visit to campus) and was part of the team that wrote a first-place trio of editorials in 2018. He also received recognition for a music review he wrote in 2019. A political science and public policy major with a music minor, he graduated in May of 2020 and will pursue a master's degree in public policy on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Manchester before enrolling in law school.

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  1. Bravo Robert Spencer! A Truth-Teller about Islam. A shame the students at GC have been brainwashed by professional dunces like Todd Green. You want to learn about Islam? Then read Spencer’s books. Visit his website Jihad Watch. Pay no attention to professional imbeciles like Green. He has no idea what he’s talking about.

    Post a Reply
    • I feel like if we want to learn about Islam, we should talk to someone who practices the religion.

      Post a Reply
      • Not Muslims. A central tenet of Islam is “Al Taqiyya” (The Concealment) which is lying to the Infidels (non-Muslims) about Islam. If you don’t know about Al Taqiyya Sam then you don’t know anything about Islam. Lying to the Infidels (that’s you) is universal in Islam, both Shia and Sunni.

        Post a Reply
        • Sean, Al Taqiyya is only allowed to be invoked by Muslims to save their lives. Islam allows Muslims to lie about their faith when telling the truth will get them killed. So yes if there is a genocide against Muslims in this country, they will say they are not Muslim to keep from getting killed. It’s disingenuous to act like that’s a central tenant.

          Also, if I decided to only quote verses from the Bible that talk about stoning women who are adulterers, or homosexuals as abominations to God, or God’s commands to slaughter all non-Jews while ignoring all of the verses on love and peace, I could make Christianity seem pretty extremist too.

          Post a Reply
          • Brad, a Muslim may resort to taqiyya (holy deception) when he believes he is correct in doing so to protect the faith, to prevent conflict among believers or to keep peace in the family. The opportunities to make use of this interesting technique, which is mandated by Islam, are virtually unlimited. For example, if I were a married Muslim man and decided to take another wife, yet feared the reaction my first wife would have, I would be entitled by my faith to lie to her to keep peace in the family. I know this first hand because I experienced such situations involving Muslim acquaintances while posted for 8 years in the Middle East. I could go into other areas and cite examples: For instance, contracts between Muslims and non Muslims in which the contract is signed, then the REAL negotiation begins as the Muslim signer ignores the terms of the contract. I have Muslim friends, yet I do not agree with such problematic standards, which are in fact common in the Muslim culture and religion. There is much much more I could say and more examples I could give, but time does not permit and I have made my point. Of course, I was not not experienced in such matters before my assignment abroad. I suggest you do more research and do not depend so much on a Muslim to enlighten you. I suggest you delve more deeply into the tenets of Islam. I suggest you go to a number of sources of information on Taqiyya. My best wishes to you,


      • Did you not learn how to read? I presume you’ve seen the video of Spencer where he quotes from the Sharia book approved by Al Ahzar University. What do you not understand about that? Straight from the horse’s mouth! If you want to know about Islam, you read the authoritative interpretation of it. Especially if you know that lying about Islam is part and parcel of Islam, hence why risk getting lies?

        Post a Reply
      • You’re right, Gettysburg College’s hostile behavior towards Robert Spencer was dumb as s**t.

        Post a Reply

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