An Oklahoma university has said it is considering the removal of religious icons such as crosses and bibles from its chapel, after receiving a request.
East Central University, An Oklahoma university, has said that it is considering the removal of religious icons such as crosses and bibles from the chapel on its campus, after receiving a request from a group to do so. The move is supposed to be in order to show respect and support to the various religious and cultural beliefs held by its students.
The request previously sent to the university said: “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,” the letter states. “Please remove or cover the religious displays and items.”
Ian Smith, the attorney of the advocacy group who sent this request, said that he didn’t know any other school with such religious iconography at a similar level.
He said: “In this case, everything screams this is a Christian chapel. Iconography communicates a message,” he said. “It can’t be a room just for religious use.”
Annie Gaylor, the co-president of the group, the “Freedom From Religion Foundation,” said that they had also sent a request to the university to stop its “sacred music program” that lets students study hymnology, liturgy, worship and composition.
Gaylor said she thinks the program is in violation of the US constitution because it was religious in nature rather than secular and academic. She said: “ECU certainly cannot train Christian ministers to promote a sectarian religious message. Similarly, it cannot train choir leaders to promote the same message.”
The University’s Response
On Friday, ECU said in a statement that it previously planned to do so and even removed some religious items from its chapel, but then decided to get feedback from community members, including students and faculty first.
“We moved too quickly,” said the university’s president, Katricia Pierson in a 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.”
She also said that the university is “looking at the feasibility” of removing the cross from the steeple in the chapel.