Religious leaders and politicians are fighting against a city and a Washington, D.C., organization’s attempt to remove all Christian symbols from a university chapel in Oklahoma.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) issued a complaint to East Central University demanding that they remove all religious paraphernalia, including bibles, from a campus chapel, according to The Associated Press. The university, fearing legal action, complied with the group’s demands and removed all religious items.
Oklahoma’s attorney general and religious leaders intervened due to public outcry before the university could remove a steeple cross.
Attorney General Mike Hunter, a Republican lambasted AUSCS as “an out-of-state interest group” and accused the group of bullying the university and the state of Oklahoma, according to The AP.
“We absolutely reject the demand to remove the cross or other religious material or icons in the church,” Hunter added.
The university ceased to carry out the group’s demands to remove religious icons from the chapel, which was donated to the university in 1957 by a former regent. The school administration now defers to Hunter for what to do in the face of a potential lawsuit over the issue. Hunter pledged to defend the chapel and the university, to the utter bafflement of AUSCS. The organization evidently did not expect anyone to resist their demand to remove bibles and crosses from a Christian chapel.
“We’ve received complaints involving public schools displaying religious items on school property, and we’ve written complaint letters, but often the religious items were removed without having to go to court,” AUSCS attorney Alex Luchenitser told The AP. The group is deliberating over whether to file a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma and awaits further action from the university.
“[East Central University] is the state of Oklahoma,” said AUSCS attorney Ian Smith. “And the state of Oklahoma cannot operate a Christian chapel. The state is not Christian. It’s not … atheist. It’s not Jewish. It’s not Muslim. It’s supposed to be neutral. All this does is create an equal playing field for students at that university.”
Many students and local religious leaders do not share Smith’s sentiment. Pastor Randall Christy of Union Valley Baptist Church posted videos to Facebook protesting the removal of the cross and led rallies in defense of the chapel.
“We’re in the Bible Belt of America, and this is a Christian-background community,” Caleb Watson, an East Central sophomore, told The AP . “You can go to another country and they’re going to express their religious values and expect you to assimilate.”
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