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ADA, Okla. - A university in Oklahoma is removing crosses, Bibles and other religious paraphernalia from its on-campus chapel after getting a complaint from a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for the separation of church and state.
East Central University President Katricia Pierson said Thursday in a statement obtained by The Associated Press that the school is “looking at the feasibility” of removing the cross on the steeple of the Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel on top of its move to take items from inside the chapel.
“We will continue to use the building as we always have, for all faiths,” Pierson said. “We do not want to presume to embrace one faith over another. We support all cultures and attempt to make them feel comfortable when they are here.”
She said there were only a few items that needed to be removed from the building.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said in a three-page letter received by university officials June 20 that the university was violating federal law by displaying “permanent religious iconography” on its campus, The Ada News reported.
“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 group said in its letter, which was obtained by The Ada News. “Please remove or cover the religious displays and items.”
Pierson said that the university is looking at its options for preserving the removed items.
The Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel opened in 1957. According to East Central University officials, the chapel was a gift from a man named S.C. Boswell, who gifted the chapel in memory of his wife. It was intended for use by all religious groups on campus.
Ada is about 70 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.