Jessa (Duggar) Seewald Sparks Backlash After Alabama Women's Convention Books Her as Guest Speaker Amid Josh Duggar Sex Scandal
Some attendees of the Birmingham, Alabama, "Southern Women's Show" don't seem too happy about Seewald's appearance
An Alabama convention for women has been facing backlash online since announcing that Jessa (Duggar) Seewald will be a headline guest. Still, an event spokesperson tells PEOPLE that there are no plans to cancel the 22-year-old’s appearance.
The Southern Women’s Show in Birmingham, Alabama, has been flooded with critical comments on social media following the announcement in July that the 22-year-old former star of 19 Kids and Counting was booked as a speaker for Oct. 10. The Duggar family faced widespread criticism this spring after the revelation that son Josh molested young girls when he was a teenager. Seewald and sister Jill (Duggar) Dillard said they were among Josh’s victims and that they had forgiven him. TLC later canceled the Duggars’ reality show. Then, in August, Josh admitted that he had been unfaithful to his wife Anna and was addicted to pornography.
“It is disgusting and insulting to educated, employed, confident successful and ambitious women to see that Jessa Duggar Seewald is a speaker,” one commenter wrote. The Facebook user added: “SHAME ON YOU.”
Another wrote: “I used to go [to the Southern Women’s Show] every year but do not agree with their stand on this … Women who have been molested do not want to be reminded.”
The spokesperson says Seewald’s appearance was scheduled back in March, prior to the controversy, and her appearance will not be canceled as the event is no stranger to divisive guests like Kate Gosselin and Duck Dynasty cast members.
“We recognize that the scheduled engagement has sparked a heated conversation,” the spokesperson told PEOPLE. “The challenge, as a consumer show dedicated to women of all ages, ethnicities and lifestyles is to provide diversity, balance, current interests and variety.”
While organizers “respect the opinions for those both and against [Seewald’s] appearance,” administrators for the show’s Facebook account were forced to weigh in on the online discussion.
An administrator told one commenter that Seewald works with several child protective organizations and would participate in an “open forum” to answer questions from attendees.
“We are hopeful that public inquiries are appropriately respectful regarding this important and sensitive subject,” organizers wrote.
Amid the backlash, the spokesperson said organizers hope attendees realize that the three-day show is much more than just Seewald’s appearance.
“We recognize we will never reach the ultimate goal of pleasing 100 percent of our guests,” the spokesperson told PEOPLE. “But we strive to make sure that our shows have a variety of choices for all women to enjoy.”
The spokesperson added that the overall response to the reality star’s impending appearance has been “overwhelmingly supportive.”
Some commenters praised the decision to feature the reality star. “So excited to see Jessa & Ben!” one Facebook user wrote in the post’s comment section. “Being a Christian does not make you a cult member & Christians are just sinners saved by grace & we all fall short.
Another added: “She is in no way responsible for something another member of her family did!”
Seewald, who appeared in a TLC special about child sex abuse Sunday, has not publicly commented on the outrage surrounding her impending appearance at the trade show. But she uploaded a Instagram photo on Monday of a sermon titled “The Passions That Prevent Adultery.”