David Roark, who serves The Village Church as its communications director, had his invitation to speak at a conference for graphic and user experience designers pulled because of his religious beliefs. After complaints and threats from the Dallas chapter of AIGA over Roark’s inclusion, the Circles Conference caved. While disappointed, David Roark, for his part, has responded far more graciously than have his persecutors.
“The 2019 conference speaker roster includes the Communications Director of The Village Church, an organization that does not meet our standards of inclusion because of openly discriminatory policies and practices towards women and the LGBTQ+ community,” the group explained.
The Circles Conference responded with an open letter of their own, announcing that David Roark would not be speaking. After acknowledging AIGA’s letter, Circle’s statement, crafted by their founder, Ismael Burciaga, explains in a virtue-signaling tour de force:
Since the beginning, one goal of Circles Conference has been to bring people of different world views and creative backgrounds together. While cultivating a collaborative and creative culture is our top priority, we also respect the concerns of our fellow creatives and we will always be open to dialogue and transparency.
After serious consideration, we have made a speaker change. We respect the concerns of the design community and aim to create a safe space for everyone who attends Circles Conference, regardless of their individual world views or beliefs.
In a series of tweets, Roark refused to stoop to their level and, instead, provides a lesson in graciousness in the face of persecution. Explaining that he understands that “this is a complex situation” and that he harbors “no hard feelings toward AIGA or Circles, only love,” he offers this important take:
I believe that to end division and pursue unity in our world, we must be willing to listen well, enter into dialogue and understand that we can show love, honor and dignity to one another while still disagreeing. I don’t think that happened here, but I have hope that it can happen. I want the creative community to be a place where individuals of all backgrounds, beliefs and lifestyles can learn from one another, regardless of differences, not a place where we shut each other out.
1/3 Yesterday, I was removed as a speaker at Circles Conference (https://t.co/M5bGPCy3K8). I have no hard feelings toward AIGA or Circles, only love. 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.
— David Roark (@DavidRoark) July 3, 2019
To the naysayers clicking their tongues over my use of the word persecution, this is absolutely persecution for following Jesus. Does it reach the level of persecution suffered by many Christians throughout the ages who have willingly surrendered their lives, often in very painful ways, for the sake of their Savior? No, of course not. But, the absence of worst-case scenarios doesn’t change what has happened and what is happening in this country.
Conferences like Circles are one of the more important ways that people like Roark network in order to help build their portfolio. Being able to speak at the conference would have boosted his personal brand and opened up further avenues for him to continue to grow his career. Denying Christians access to professional opportunities over their beliefs is a giant step to further social ostracization. It’s also an unmistakable signal that Christians are viewed as social pariahs.
Unless something changes, it won’t be long before Christians are denied jobs, social services, and government protection afforded citizens who toe the approved ideological line.