Last week, some conservative students and alumni at Baylor University in Waco, Texas went public with their disapproval of sentiments shared by guest speaker Kaitlin Curtice. Curtice spoke at Baylor’s chapel service about the fight against white supremacy, equality for women and rights for indigenous people groups in the United States.
Curtice is an author, poet and citizen of the Potawatomi Citizen Band Nation. Curtice spoke at three different chapel services and was interrupted in the middle of one by a student who shouted “No one even thinks like that!” when she said that “in the church today, women are not seen as equal to men.”
During her speech, Curtice discussed the genocide and displacement faced by her indigenous ancestors.
“We have always been here but what does it do to our spiritual essence to know that we’ll be punished for expressing our ways of knowing God? And how does that actually affect our connectedness as a whole? Colonization and white supremacy steal so much from indigenous peoples. From black peoples who are stolen from their homelands and enslaved in the United States, we cannot deny that this history is a spiritual one. So today, my spiritual liberation is tied up with the spiritual liberation of all of my relatives who face oppression, whose bodies are policed, who are told that they are less-than.”
A Baylor-backed student group known as the Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas released a statement over social media, describing Curtice as “a speaker with pagan sympathies,” and her message as part of the “political agenda of the progressive wing of Baylor faculty.”
The statement decried Curtice’s past denouncements of President Donald Trump and claimed that her “understanding of Christianity is surface level at best.” The statement called on Baylor to “formally and publicly apologize to students, alumni and faculty for breaking with their mission to provide an unapologetically Christian chapel experience.”
In comments to local news, Baylor student Jake Neidert of the Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas said he found Curtice’s comments “offensive.”
“I mean, she didn’t pray to God and that’s what’s most offensive,” said Neidert. “She began prayer in the service in the name of Mother Mystery and I looked up, you know, and looked around and there’s 12-hundred freshmen bowing their heads to this thing that’s not God.”
In the video of Curtice’s speech posted to Vimeo, she addresses her prayer to “Mystery.”
Waco pastor and former Baylor Regent Ramiro Peña agreed with Neidert, telling local reporters that he hopes “the administration can learn from this mistake and grow from it and make corrective action because praying to Mother Mystery is a big miss at Baylor University.”
In a message to concerned parents, Baylor faculty implied that Curtice had surprised them with the content of her speech. “Every Chapel speaker works with us ahead of time on what message they will be sharing, but on occasion, a speaker may veer away from our understanding of the message they planned to convey,” the letter said. “When this happens, we address the matter with our Chapel students and invite them to come talk to us after Chapel.”
Curtice disputed the implications of the letter on Twitter, saying “the Baylor chapel leaders knew exactly what I was speaking on before I came.” She did not immediately respond to RELEVANT’s requests for comment.
A Baylor alumni named David Cramer has written an open letter apologizing to Curtice for her treatment.
“While all speech is inherently political, it is disheartening to see your gentle invitation to join you in wrestling with our shared cultural heritage dismissively characterized as part of a ‘liberal agenda’ instead of as what it is: proclamation of the gospel,” Cramer wrote. “Might the Spirit be calling us, through the voice of our sister Kaitlin, to repent of our complicity in systems of death so that we may instead choose life that we and our neighbors and our children and all God’s creation might live?”
You can watch Curtice’s whole speech below.