Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is not backing down from stopping an effort to remove a cross from a chapel at East Central State University in Ada.
Hunter wrote a letter to the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State and told them to stop sending demand letters to the attorney general’s office and the state of Oklahoma.
The special interest group sent a followup letter to the attorney general’s Solicitor General Mithun Mansinghani on August 16, demanding the removal of religious icons from the Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel at East Central University (ECU). Hunter said the empty threats by the out of state group to ECU and Oklahomans are without merit.
“My office will not allow an out-of-state interest group to bully the university and the state of Oklahoma,” Hunter said. “The superficial demands the group are making have no merit or legal reasoning. We absolutely reject the demand to remove the cross or other religious material or icons in the church.
“We have no desire to negotiate and ask them to conclude correspondence with the state of Oklahoma on this matter.”
On June 20, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to ECU President Dr. Katricia Pierson, demanding the removal of all religious material from the chapel on campus. The stated that “The cross displays and various other religious displays in the chapel plainly violate the law Please remove them.” And it demanded a response in 30 days, presumably as a prelude to filing a lawsuit.
On July 5, after discussions with state regents and university officials, Hunter said the chapel did not violate any laws, ECU should uphold the status quo and his office would defend the university if necessary. Hunter wrote a letter to Regional University System of Oklahoma Chairman Mark Stansberry and said that the Establishment Clause doesn’t require government institutions to “adopt an attitude of hostility to religion, religious symbols or religious people.” It does not require that public school purge all religious references.
On July 10, Mansinghani sent a letter to the special interest group saying all further communications regarding the chapel should be directed to the attorney general’s office. The group sent a followup demand letter to Mansinghani on August 16.
The Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel at East Central University in Ada opened to all faiths in 1957. The chapel was a gift from S.C. Boswell in memory of his wife. Since opening, it has been used by numerous religious groups and clubs on campus, as well as for weddings and other events.