Christian University Goes Forward With Bill Cosby Dinner Despite Controversy

Nov 21, 2014 06:50 PM EST

Bill Cosby
Actor Bill Cosby speaks at the National Action Network's 20th annual Keepers of the Dream Awards gala in New York April 6, 2011. Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Although legendary comedian Bill Cosby may have lost TV deals, shows and specials with NBC, TV Land and Netflix due to multiple allegations of rape, a Christian university in West Tennessee is still inviting him to speak at an upcoming benefit dinner.

Freed-Hardeman University, a private Christian college in Henderson, Tenn., has stated that the comedian is still allowed to speak at a Dec. 5 benefit dinner, according to The Christian Times. However, a WREG report from Jessica Gertler mentioned that a Memphis advocacy group warned the university that his visit will have a negative impact on sexual assault victims.

"If he does show up Dec. 5 to the auditorium, I'll be out there protesting, and I won't be alone," said David Brown, the leader of the Memphis Chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Brown added that he is puzzled at why the private Christian college would hold its annual benefit dinner with Cosby as guest speaker. He noted that the university "can raise money more admirably than this" and warned them in a letter of the potential fallout of going through this event with the comedian.

"If you keep him as your keynote speaker, your fine university will hurt so many, and you will never know the harm that you have done," Brown said in the letter.

According to Gertler, Freed-Harman University released a statement on Wednesday defending their decision to go forward with Cosby as guest speaker.

"We committed to a contract with Bill Cosby many months ago after soliciting input from alumni and friends," the university wrote. "While recent developments have drawn attention to our event because of the speaker, we hope that people will remember: 1.) this dinner is about helping students, and 2.) while we are reading stories in the media, they represent real people whose lives will be affected long after FHU's dinner has passed."

The university added that everyone should join them "in praying for healing and peace for those involved."

Brown told Gertler that he will bring the protest to social media and might consider picketing at the benefit dinner itself.

"I am asking Bill Cosby to not come, or Freed-Hardeman, I prefer you step up and do the right thing for the Christian community and for all West Tennessee," Brown said.

Although neither Cosby nor his lawyers have yet to respond to the newest rape allegations from multiple women, the self-described Christian had some comments about an American media culture that now seems to turn a critical eye on him, as told by Mark Hensch in a 2011 Christian Post article.

"I think the part of media that romanticizes criminal behavior, things that a person will say against women, profanity, being gangster, having multiple children with multiple men and women and not wanting to is prevalent," Cosby said in 2011. "When you look at the majority of shows on television they placate that kind of behavior. If you go through a weekly Monday through Friday, it's all there."

Cosby told the Christian Post that "there should be more on television that uplifts people and shows them how to better prepare themselves for earning a living." However, he ended that 2011 interview with a comment that seems eerily prophetic about how he could be theoretically dealing with his very public current situation now.

"The Bible says 'this so too shall pass,'" Cosby said. "If you stay away from the things that cause those urges, they'll go away for a while. They'll come back, but the timeline gets longer every time."