A pricey design conference in Texas yanked a Christian speaker from its roster after a local chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts took issue with his inclusion.
The Circles Conference, taking place in Richardson in mid-September, removed David Roark, communications director for The Village Church, the megachurch led by pastor Matt Chandler, after the Dallas-Fortworth AIGA pulled out of the arts conference because he was slated to speak during the event.
News Roark had been disinvited was first shared by conservative radio host Dana Loesch, who wrote about it in a lengthy Facebook post.
In a statement, the AIGA specifically took issue with the Village’s “openly discriminatory policies and practices towards women and the LGBTQ+ community.”
“We feel it would be hypocritical of us to be involved in the conference and tacitly endorse the policies of The Village Church,” the statement continued. “This would be a misallocation of our membership resources and a disservice to all members of our community against whom the organization discriminates.”
The AIGA chapter’s unwillingness to coexist worked. The Circles Conference dropped Roark as a speaker.
Ismael Burciaga, founder of the conference, said in a statement he decided to remove Roark because he “respect[s] the concerns of the design community and aim[s] to create a safe space for everyone who attends Circles Conference, regardless of their individual world views or beliefs.”
That “regardless,” though, apparently doesn’t apply to Roark, who has, ironically, written about the importance of diversity and has criticized his own faithful community for being narrow-minded in their interpretation of what it means to be pro-life. But in the eyes AIGA, Roark is disqualified because of his mainstream Christian views on sexuality.
Burciaga defended the exclusion, claiming he and his fellow conference leaders want everyone to feel “welcome,” noting it’s important to create a “space where everyone feels safe and comfortable sharing their creative experience.”
Roark, despite adhering to a religion that commands grace and love, is now being excluded. Somehow, that doesn’t feel like the action of someone eager to “welcome” people “regardless of their individual world views or beliefs.”
In a series of tweets posted Wednesday afternoon, Roark gracefully accepted Burciaga’s decision, writing he has “no hard feelings toward AIGA or Circles.”
“I understand this was a complex situation, and the last thing that I would want to do is cause a problem or be a distraction,” he wrote.
Roark did, however, encourage the leaders at the Circles Conference and AIGA to “pursue unity in our world” by engaging in dialogue and understanding it’s possible to “show love, honor and dignity to one another while still disagreeing.”
“I don’t think that happened here,” he admitted. “But I have hope that it can happen.”