The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, has successfully bullied the town of Steubenville, Ohio, which is the home of Franciscan University, to remove a part of the new city logo that depicted a chapel and cross to honor the Catholic institution.
Franciscan University’s vice president of advancement Michael Hernon said:
We find it particularly troubling that an out of town and out of touch group targeted the University for removal from the logo solely because of our religious identity. For more than 65 years, Franciscan University of Steubenville has proudly served as an integral part of this community and we were honored to have our chapel included in the new city of Steubenville logo.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the atheist group, said a Steubenville native contacted her and asked her foundation to fight against the new logo. Gaylor pontificated:
It is about the Constitution. We are a nation of laws and the Steubenville city council has taken an oath of office to uphold the federal Constitution which bars establishment of religion and the Ohio Constitution which is even more specific that no preference by law should be shown to religion. And when you place what you say is a very identifiable in your … community Catholic emblem on your city seal that shows preference for religion. That is singling out that Franciscan University, that cross, what it stands for, Christianity, on the city seal and it is not necessary.
Gaylor also said:
Steubenville is a theocracy and is a Christian city where non-Christians or non-believers are not favored citizens. While we understand that Franciscan University is a part of the city, the city may not depict the university chapel and cross because to do so places the city’s imprimatur behind Christianity.
Before the reference to Franciscan University was deleted, the logo featured images of downtown Steubenville and various landmarks, such as Fort Steuben, the Veterans Memorial Bridge and Franciscan University’s Christ the King Chapel.
Mark Nelson, who designed the logo, made the point that Los Angeles County, when challenged by the ACLU in 2004 about the cross on its official seal, was able to retain the chapel and only lose the cross.
The bottom line was conceded by Steubenville’s legal expert Gary Repella, who said that redesigning the logo minus any reference to religious faith was easier and cheaper than going head-to-head in court with the FFRF.
When an out-of-town group can bully a city about what it can or cannot put on its logo by twisting the Constitution and get away with it, it’s time for those of faith to gin up and fight back.