The release quoted Johnson as saying: "I have always been and continue to be a supporter of President Obama
. The issue is not about the article in question, but about Morehouse's long-standing history and pedagogy of free thought and free speech. Without free thought and free speech, Morehouse would not have produced our most admired alumnus, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."
Johnson submitted a letter to Wilson on April 17 insisting that his original invitation be honored. Instead, he was replaced with three other speakers, the release said.
However, officials at Morehouse, situated in Atlanta and the only all-male historically black college in the nation, offered a different account Friday.
"Rev. Johnson was never disinvited," said Elis Durham, media relations manager, referring further questions to a statement by Wilson.
In it, Wilson said he had long urged Morehouse to "focus our attention on important matters to the exclusion of distractions." Specifically, he said, the community should focus on the graduation celebration of the students and the visit by the president.
Wilson, while not naming Johnson, said he had extended an invitation to a distinguished alumnus to speak at the baccalaureate service, then decided to change the format to a "more creative, multi-speaker approach that is used by many leading institutions."
Three speakers would reflect a broader range of views, Wilson said.
"To my chagrin, my decision has been wrongly construed by some as an effort to 'disinvite' this individual," Wilson said. "He was not disinvited, but rather declined to participate in the format."
Censorship, he added, "has no place in any viable academic institution. These allegations are fundamentally deleterious and are undeserved."
The decision had nothing to do with censorship, the King legacy, or the traditions of the college, he said.
The Citizens for Change news release carried the names of seven Morehouse alumni who said there was "growing concern" over Wilson's handling of the situation and that "many regard the college's change of course as an affront to the liberal arts tradition of intellectual freedom."