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Public university removes Bible and cross from campus chapel, caves to DC-based group

(AP Photo)

A heated religious controversy has erupted at East Central University (ECU). Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit group based in Washington D.C., has filed a complaint against the Oklahoma public university, expressing concern over the Bibles and crosses in the university’s chapel. Americans United for Separation of Church and State are asking that ECU remove any of the two religious material from the school’s chapel.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s letter reads:

“We have received a complaint that East Central University’s Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel has permanent religious iconography on display… 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.”

The jeremiad of concerns from the group goes on for three pages.

Dr. Katricia Pierson, the President of East Central University responded by saying, “We do not want to presume to embrace one faith over another.”

At an announcement on Tuesday, Dr. Pierson stated We will continue to use the building as we always have, for all faiths,” Pierson stated. For years there’s been an ongoing debate in this country over the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the U.S. government from establishing a national religion.

Dr. Pierson’s announcement on Tuesday goes on to state:

“We do not want to presume to embrace one faith over another. We support all cultures and attempt to make them comfortable when they are here. There were only a few items inside the building and we are looking at the feasibility of removing the cross on the steeple, but need to respond to the request for removal of religious icons from the chapel. We are exploring options for preserving the items.”

East Central University’s Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel was established in 1957, but is currently closed. The university has already removed the Bibles and crosses from inside of the building.

Americans United complaint letter was sent on June 20th and ECU was given 30 days to provide a response. After the decision was made to remove the religious material, numerous Christian residents of Ada joined ECU students to protest at Boswell chapel in objection to the university’s decision. Dr. Pierson has since then reevaluated her initial resolution offering a statement saying the university has refrained from taking any further action.

“We moved too quickly,” Pierson stated. “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.”

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