East Central University in Ada has withdrawn its efforts to remove Christian symbols from the historic Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel.
The action was initially in response to a recent letter from an atheist group, the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State to the state university.
“We moved too quickly,” said Katricia Pierson, ECU president. “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.”
Pierson said initially the university removed some items to show support for all cultures and religious beliefs. The chapel is used for various religions, student clubs and events.
“This requires a more thoughtful and deliberate approach to the request,” Pierson said. “That will be our next step.”
Pierson said the university will immediately begin convening a committee of students, faculty and community members to study the issue.
“ECU is committed to diversity and welcomes different perspectives. This is an opportunity to have a thoughtful dialogue,” said Pierson. “ECU will not take further action until the committee has had ample time to discuss and establish policies or guidelines for religious expressions in the art, history, architecture, study and areas of worship on campus.”
State Rep. Pat Ownbey agreed with the decision to return the items and reconsider the decision to remove them.
““While I applaud that decision, I believe it is imperative for those that are charged with leading Oklahoma’s universities to understand that threats of lawsuits should never dictate our Oklahoma values. There are things worth fighting for. This is certainly one of them,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. “It is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As our crosses continue to come down one by one, it is our liberal courts that are driving these bad decisions. These judicial actions are eroding the very foundation on which this country was built.
“It is a fact that the United States was founded on Christian principles. In fact, Congress approved the printing of the Bible and later recommended and approved the actual use of it in all schools. In that Bible is a Congressional endorsement declaring, in part: ‘Resolved, the United States in Congress assembled recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.’ Eighty-two years later Congress passed a law to add ‘In God We Trust’ to U.S. coinage.
“Andrew Jackson spoke of God’s word when he said, ‘The Bible is the rock on which our republic rests.’ Lincoln proclaimed, ‘Without it, we wouldn’t know right from wrong. The correct interpretation is freedom of religion it is not freedom from religion.”