". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


University of Utah Approves Trans Flags, but Not American Flags

May 6, 2024

On April 8, The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles went to The University of Utah to give a speech, sponsored by Young America’s Foundation (YAF), on the problems with transgender ideology. Following the pattern of what many conservative speakers face on college campuses, Knowles was met with protestors. It later became evident that these protests were a part of the school’s “Pride celebration” that had been extended an additional week by Philip Osteen, the dean of the university’s College of Social Work.

Not only did Osteen extend the Pride gathering by a week, but he “approved for transgender and LGBT flags and banners to fill the building Knowles was set to speak in,” TDW wrote. YAF representative Breana Marsh had approached Osteen, asking if they could set up American flags in the foyer of the building Knowles spoke in, but the dean said he could not grant approval. Instead, he recommended that Marsh speak with the dean of students about her request.

Osteen was asked why he was able to approve Pride flags but not American flags, to which he responded, “[B]ecause I approved these to go up as a celebration of our Pride.” He was also asked why he added another week to the school’s Pride festivities, and he said it was to establish “an inclusive place to support trans rights, LGBTQ2s rights.” But as Marsha emphasized, “I think it’s a gross misuse to say that ‘We’re going to make a safe place, we’re going to make students feel represented and protected, and everyone feels safe,’ at the absolute hanging of your conservative students.”

In addition to Marsh’s concerns, Knowles had mentioned at the beginning of his speech that he saw a student getting assaulted by who he presumed was a protestor as the student hung up flyers promoting his lecture that evening. In comments to The Washington Stand, Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow Joseph Backholm shared, “Formal opposition to the expression of conservative ideas obviously isn’t a new development on the Left, especially on college campuses.”

He continued, “But it is interesting that the Left appears to be hostile to the American flag.” Backholm explained that “a line-dancing group was recently told not to wear American flag styled shirts during an event in Seattle because it made people uncomfortable.” Allegedly, “The group was told it had something to do with ‘what was going on in Palestine and the LGBTQ community.’” As far as the reasons Osteen gave when asked about why he couldn’t approve the American flag, Backholm noted, “I can’t know exactly why certain flags were displayed and others were not, but it’s plausible the Dean was simply trying to create a hostile environment for Michael Knowles.”

Ultimately, “The Dean’s unwillingness to display the American flag is consistent with other examples of left-wing hostility to the flag.” Backholm highlighted that, “Unfortunately, it seems the flag is becoming a partisan symbol.” And considering what was seen on the Utah campus, Backholm said “it could be an admission the sexual revolutionaries are interested in something other than what America has long stood for, which is an argument a lot of us have been making for a long time.”

Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s senior fellow for Education Studies, also shared her thoughts with TWS. She noted, “One of Michael Knowles’s most controversial and publicized speeches was at CPAC [the Conservative Political Action Conference] where he said, ‘For the good of society … transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.’” According to Kilgannon, it’s likely the Dean “was using the power he has to make the opposite point.”

She concluded, “This was his chance to have a wider audience than the students who are forced to endure his politicking. I’d be willing to bet that most of the taxpayers in Utah are not very interested in subsidizing transgender flags on campus for weeks on end.”

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.