By Morgan Harlan | Staff Writer
Kathy Khang, an Asian-American writer and speaker, was presenting at Chapel on Feb. 18 when Denver freshman Joe Napierkowski stood up to correct Khang on what he viewed as an inaccurate statement. Napierkowski was then removed from Baylor Chapel’s audience.
A video was posted by Baylor’s Young Conservatives of Texas on YouTube on March 4, where Napierkowski tells his side of the story about Khang’s speech.
“While I disagreed on some of the points she made, I felt no need to object. That is until she began relaying a recent news story out of Florida,” Napierkowski said.
On Feb. 4, an 11-year-old boy in Florida was arrested for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance. Khang said in her speech that the boy was unjustly arrested for exercising his First Amendment rights. Napierkowski stood up and said, “That’s not what happened. He was making terroristic threats to his teacher.”
Young Conservatives of Texas is a non-partisan conservative youth organization that fights for conservative values and publishes ratings of the Texas Legislature.
“Joe spoke out against blatant lies at a recent edition of Baylor’s mandatory freshman Chapel sessions. This is his story,” read the caption of the video published by the YCT.
Napierkowski said in the video that he was then taken out of Chapel after his comment and told to wait for the Chapel director.
“He began bombarding me with questions and accusations of disrespect,” Napierkowski said. “I wasn’t going to let the entire student body be lied to. No one has a monopoly on the truth, except the truth.”
Napierkowski then finished his testimony with a direct message to the Chapel director and entire Baylor administration.
“On behalf of the entire student body, we are done accepting the propaganda that is force fed to us on campus. We will no longer stand idly by while our peers, our classmates, and our friends are indoctrinated with your subjective view of the world,” Napierkowski said. “We will call out your speakers when they lie and we will make our voices heard when we disagree.”
Khang has been publicly speaking and preaching for 21 years.
“This wasn’t about being afraid of someone disagreeing with me. I have never had someone in the audience yell at me until the incident at Baylor. It was rude, and it was unnerving,” Khang said.
In addition to the video Baylor YCT posted, the organization has been active on Twitter in regards to Khang’s speech. Tweeting on March 5,”Imagine being a racist liar that deliberately attempted to mislead hundreds of college students and then playing victim when you’re appropriately called out on it.” The tweet was a subtweet in response to a tweet from Khang that said, “Well that escalated in the most expected way.”
Khang said several of this young man’s peers and one adjunct lecturer have made it clear they agree with his behavior, and she would hope Baylor in the future would let invited guests know to expect students yell out their own opinions, corrections and disagreement.
On Feb. 25, in response to the incident at Chapel, Khang wrote a blog post on her website named, “Split Second Decisions.” Khang wrote that she talked about a few things that are broken in this country, things that break her heart and make her desperate for Jesus. She mentioned the mass shooting that had just occurred in Aurora, Ill., and the arrest of an 11-year-old boy in Florida who had refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Then things got intense,” wrote Khang. “I did not know where the voice was coming from or if that young man was going to approach the stage. It didn’t matter which school it was, which state I was in, what the laws are. I didn’t know.”
According to her blog, Khang has been asking for the past 10 years for an additional plane ticket to public speaking events so that she does not have to travel alone. She wrote that would’ve loved having a friend or her husband with her to pray with and cry with after this was all over.
“I held it together like a professional Christian and waited until my husband greeted me at the curb and then I cried,” wrote Khang.
Gilbert, Ariz., senior Samuel Lin, chair of the Coalition of Asian Students, said there are plenty of times where Chapel speakers may say things that get students to think and wrestle with but that does not necessarily merit speaking out at that exact time.
“After reading the passage more carefully and listening to her talk on the Chapel online services, the message she was trying to convey was one that was reflective and challenging. Sometimes these things combined are difficult to understand, but I think that was the point,” Lin said. “There are times where difficult issues and situations occur, but as Christians, these are all challenges that the Bible talks about and other ministers have talked about. It is during these times that if we have more privilege or are better off, we need to step up, be there for those in need.”
Lin said he suggests a method to speak to the speakers afterwards or a simple Q&A would also work and that promoting healthy dialogue at Baylor is key, as it fosters the growth of the community.
“This is an incident that some people may view as small but this is a situation and concern that has been building for a number of years,” Lin said. “Baylor culture has ignored us for long enough and as a coalition, we are not going to stand by and let this go unnoticed. Not anymore. We are Baylor and we belong.”
Dr. Ryan Richardson, associate chaplain and director of worship and chapel, better known at Baylor as “Chapel Ryan,” declined to comment on the incident.
Baylor YCT sent a statement to the Lariat by email, saying Chapel can be improved in two ways to promote balance among speakers and students.
“If partisan people must come to chapel, then there is a simple solution if Chapel’s goal is to avoid people interrupting the speaker: have a Q&A session for the last 10-15 minutes,” the statement from Baylor YCT reads. “This will allow people to address falsehoods in the speakers speeches more respectfully. Secondly, if leftist speakers are invited, we should have conservative speakers as well.”
Khang is the author of “Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up.” The book is meant challenge and encourage everyone to find and use their influence to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. According to Khang’s website, she has spent 20 years in para-church ministry working with college students and training organizational and church leaders. Previously, she was a journalist in Wisconsin.