In a USA Today opinion piece titled “Oral Roberts University isn’t the feel-good March Madness story we need,” columnist Hemal Jhaveri called for basketball fans and the NCAA to “cancel” Oral Robert University (ORU) for its Biblical beliefs on LGBTQ+ issues—a move that Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford argues “goes against the very fiber of our nation’s values.”
“We have the right to have faith and live that faith,” he posted to Facebook. “Cancel culture only wants to yell at people until they comply—Oral Roberts University, national media may be against you, but you have Oklahoma behind you!”
Although ORU was eliminated from the tournament on Saturday after a narrow 72-70 defeat against the University of Arkansas, the controversy surrounding the school’s long-standing commitment to uphold Biblical sexual morality is likely to stick around.
“Sadly, the idea of canceling a college, an organization or a person over their religious convictions will most likely linger for quite some time as activists signal they’re planning to continue that fight,” CBN News warned.
In her op-ed, Jhaveri made it clear that no matter how much hard work and dedication ORU players displayed on the court, there is no room for Christian conservatives in the left’s plan for America.
“The school is a hotbed of institutional transphobia, homophobia with regressive, sexist policies,” she wrote. “There is no way to separate their men’s basketball team from the dangers of their religious dogma, no matter how many top seeds they defeat.”
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, explained that Jhaveri’s thinking goes far beyond collegiate sports:
“If you follow her logic to its natural conclusion, this isn’t just about sports,” he clarified. “If orthodox Christians don’t belong in basketball, why should they be allowed in business, entertainment, education, government or medicine? If Christianity behind closed doors, on private property, in a private school, is now a target of outrage, where do you draw the line? Extremists like Jhaveri wouldn’t.
“This is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to religious freedom,” he said. “Because the real goal here isn’t just pushing ORU to the exits. It’s about driving all Bible-believing Christians, Christian education and Christian institutions into some sort of spiritual ghetto—far away from the public square. It’s the idea that religion is something we should keep to ourselves. And eventually, as we’ve seen in oppressive regimes throughout history, even that won’t be enough.”
Yet ORU coach Paul Mills isn’t bowing to the pressures of cancel culture.
In an interview with The Gospel Coalition, Mills shed light on a few of his coaching strategies—including game-day chapels, Bible studies and an openness to the Holy Spirit.
“God does not share his glory. There’s only one Name by which man might be saved. We need to be sure we’re about that. If all you’re doing is talking about a rubber ball, you’re failing these guys.”
Photo: Courtesy of Oral Roberts University