Friday, March 10, 2006

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Decision Approving Anti-Catholic Display to Stand

After reading this article regarding the placement, at public expense, of a statue that belittles another’s religion, I wonder if the administration of the school and the Supreme Court would take a similar position if the statue had been an inflammatory reference to the dean of the college or a mockery of the schools faculty. I wonder if the president of the school would insist that a statue be left on public display that showed how the head of the school is a pervert or drunkard or reprobate gambler or simply a dull-witted Doctor of Blather standing by his Hypocritical Oaf.

I wonder if the school would remove it in exchange for a multi-million dollar grant to, let’s say, study the negative effects of insulting the religious beliefs of others. It really would be an experiment in itself to observe the sheer consternation on the part of the administration trying to decide whether to satisfy their greed or their hatred. The entire process from their reaction to the delivery of the notice to the final decision (maybe Regis Philbin could moderate?) could be filmed and shown in theaters nationally (or make a reality show for TV! Yeah, that's it!), thereby generating even further financial advancement for the school. All in the name of intellectual integrity, of course.

Or, I wonder if, in the interest of science and the furthering and broadening of the students' intellects, the statue might be used as the target of a laser experiment. Not to simply destroy it, though this would be the likely outcome, heavens no. But rather to demonstrate how committed to the edification of the student body the school and the artist really are in allowing this tax-funded ugliness (I’ve seen it and it isn’t pleasant to look at and really conveys nothing in the form of a message other than contempt. The image is ugly, the message is ugly and the will to present it is the ugliest of all. I am sure the students of Washburn would not mind seeing this eyesore washed away as it burned to vapor, giving the name of their school yet another notable and memorable connection.) to be used for the broadening of the student awareness and collective experience, as they watch hatred and ugliness removed forever from the planet (ok... from their campus) in a symbolic gesture.

I wonder if the school’s administrators are all that dedicated to truth and education, don’t you?

Ann Arbor, MI— This week the U. S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal involving a constitutional challenge to an anti-Catholic statue depicting a Roman Catholic bishop with a grotesque facial expression wearing a miter that resembles a phallus. The statue was entitled “Holier than Thou” and included a plaque with a denigrating and derisive statement about the sacrament of penance.

It was placed at one of the busiest locations on the campus of Washburn University, a tax supported public university located in Kansas. Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center attorney who handled this case, commented, “Incredibly, during the course of this litigation, university officials admitted that they would never permit an anti-Jewish, anti-black, or anti-gay/lesbian statue on campus. Discrimination against the Catholic faith apparently promotes the educational mission of Washburn University. And while the federal judiciary may have turned a blind eye to this outrage, many Catholics did not.” Many prominent Catholics criticized the statue as anti-Catholic as soon as the university began the display on September 20, 2003. Catholic Archbishop James Keleher of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas wrote an open letter to the University President strongly urging the university to remove this symbol of anti-Catholicism. He wrote, “I am extremely disappointed at this present situation that is an affront to me, to many Catholics and to others who value decency and respect. I am particularly concerned for your many Catholic students
who see their faith ridiculed and they themselves embarrassed.” Other prominent Catholic leaders and organizations, such as William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, the Kansas State Knights of Columbus, the president of the Archdiocesan Conference of Catholic Women, and the Catholic Campus Center at Washburn University expressed similar concerns about the offensive display.

Nonetheless, the University’s President defended the display as art that has the purpose of engaging the community intellectually and emotionally, and refused to remove it. As a result of the refusal, the Thomas More Law Center, a national, public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Thomas O’Connor and Andrew Strobl. Dr. O’Connor, a professor of 39 years at Washburn, and Strobl, a senior at Washburn at the time of the filing of the case, are both devout Catholics. The lawsuit alleged that Washburn’s display of this anti-Catholic symbol conveyed the impermissible state-sponsored message of hostility toward the Catholic faith in violation of the Establishment Clause. The case was dismissed by the federal district judge who ruled that Washburn had a secular purpose for displaying this sculpture because “[i]t
functions to aesthetically enhance Washburn’s campus[,] broaden the educational experiences [and] increase the intellectual capacities of Washburn’s students.”

The judge concluded that the presence of “Holier than Thou” on “Washburn’s campus would [not] cause a reasonable observer to believe that [Washburn] endorsed hostility towards the Catholic religion.” In July 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver, Colorado, affirmed the
lower court’s ruling that Washburn University did not violate the constitution even though it prominently displayed a statue supported with public funds that mocks the Catholic faith. The Thomas More Law Center asked the Supreme Court to revisit its confusing and inconsistent Establishment Clause jurisprudence and noted that this “hostility to religion” case would be a case of first impression. The Law Center argued that an evenhanded application of its present muddled jurisprudence compelled the Court to find that this display was unconstitutional. Richard Thompson, the President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, commented, “The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear this case is disappointing, and it reaffirms the double standard and hypocrisy spawned by the current Establishment Clause jurisprudence.
Despite giving lip service to the concept of neutrality towards religion, many federal court decisions have in fact bristled with hostility to all things religious, especially those that are Christian.

This double standard is also applied by our nation’s public
universities, which have refused to allow school newspapers to show the recent controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed because it was insulting to Muslims.”

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