Oklahoma’s East Central University has expressed regret for trying to ban Christian symbols like Latin crosses and Bibles from a campus chapel following legal threats from a secular anti-religion group.
President Katricia Pierson claimed she instructed the campus to withdraw an earlier decision to remove the religious symbols deemed inappropriate by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a group that seeks to forbid any religion expression in schools, the College Fix reported.
According to the letter sent by the group to the university, the organization demanded it “remove or cover the religious displays and items” because doing so allegedly violates the Constitution.
“We have received a complaint that East Central University’s Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel has permanent religious iconography on display,” the letter read.
“These displays include Latin crosses on the top of and inside the building, Bibles, and a Christian altar. While it is legal for a public university to have a space that can be used by students for religious worship so long as that space is not dedicated solely to that purpose, it is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to display religious iconography on government property. Please remove or cover the religious displays and items.”
As a result of the letter, university president Pierson caved in to the demands of the secular group and instructed it ban Christian items in the campus chapel.
But in a new statement, the president said the decision to remove Christian symbols was rushed, admitting the college “moved too quickly” and just wanted to “show support for all cultures and religious beliefs”.
According to the statement:
We regret not taking time to pause and thoughtfully consider the request and the results of our actions on all of the students, faculty and community members who we serve. …
ECU is committed to diversity and welcomes different perspectives. This is an opportunity to have a thoughtful dialogue.
Despite the regret, there’s no indication from the university that the Christian symbols won’t be removed in the long term. Pierson claims a new committee with “members who represent a diversity of viewpoints” has been formed and will decide the future of Christian items in the chapel.
The committee will also discuss “policy or guidelines” on religious expression “in the art, history, architecture, study and areas of worship on campus.”