PC Overload at William & Mary

I’m an atheist and a Darwinist. I don’t go to church except to attend weddings and the odd Christmas or Easter service. I’m what you might call “secular.” The difference between other secularists and me is that I respect my Christian heritage. I don’t take offense at the display of traditional Christian symbols in the public domain — Christianity is, after all, part of America’s cultural endowment — and I would never, never presume to be offended by the display of a Christian symbol, like a cross, in a Christian setting, like a chapel.

But some people feel differently. The College of William & Mary has now taken to removing the cross from the alter in the Wren Chapel during the building’s use for non-religious events. As reported by the Cavalier Daily:

William & Mary President Gene Nichol released a statement to the college community saying that he has “not banished the cross from the Wren Chapel. The Chapel … is used for religious ceremonies by members of all faiths. The cross will remain in the Chapel and be displayed on the altar at appropriate religious services.”

However, Nichol continued that “the Chapel is also used frequently for College events that are secular in nature — and should be open to students and staff of all beliefs” and “must be welcoming to all.”

This is rich: A Christian chapel can be “welcoming” only by denying the central symbol of the Christian religion. Even some Muslims, it appears, have more respect for Christian symbols than does William & Mary’s secular administration. The Cavalier Daily quoted Ilgaz Toros, a second-year engineering student at the University of Virginia and a practicing Muslim: “The fact that it is a religious place shouldn’t be denied.”

(Photo credit: William & Mary.)

Update: Brian Ledbetter, a “lifelong Virginian and current resident of the northern parts of the Commonwealth, er, make that ‘Lower’ New York,” posted on this story before I did — and adds a few choice observations of his own. Read his post at “Snapped Shot.”

Update: Good editorial in the Virginian-Pilot. Those fellows make sense when they’re not writing about transportation!

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7 responses to “PC Overload at William & Mary”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    I do hope this gets at least as much attention and debate as the feathers are getting. That said, this is a molehill, not a mountain. We’ve just gone from a default position where the cross was displayed (and sometimes removed) to a default position were is stored most times and displayed on request.

    W&M had a long affiliation with the Anglican Church/Church of England but it also had a strong
    Deist streak and I don’t think crosses were commonplace in colonial Baptist churches. I am actually curious about whether a cross or even an altar was part of the furnishings at all periods in the college’s history. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t. There are a dozen churches with a couple of blocks of the Wren Building.

    Jefferson and his Deist ilk would likely be comfortable with Nichol’s ruling, although Jefferson the Politician would find a comfortable pose to cover himself. A recent book by Professor David Holmes kinda blows the myth that America was founded as a Christian Nation by today’s theological definitions.

  2. Brian L. Avatar

    Could not have possibly said it better myself, though I certainly did try. I’ve added you to my version of this article over at Snapped Shot! Thanks for weighing in on this latest P.C. foible!


  3. There are times when a case can be made that a particular view might offend other people.

    This is not one of those cases.

    Nice post. That is just ridiculous.

  4. Ben Kyber Avatar

    I go to William and Mary.

    Like all the other students here, I could care less about it. Even as a student here, it doesn’t affect my life, and as people who don’t live here, it certainly doesn’t affect any of yours.

    Besides, the cross isn’t gone. Its still used in the Wren chapel when the situation warrants. Nothing has really changed. It isn’t news. No one here cares.

  5. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    Ben Kyber said, “No one here cares.”
    We believe you. So much more the pity; most people are vacuous without that care, and all are poorer for it. That’s what JB’s article is about.

    Jim Bacon – Both informative and now ironic, here’s a W&M article on its early years.

  6. I’m with you, Jim. This is ridiculous overreaching, and only confuses the issue of genuine violations of religious liberty. It’s a chapel. That’s the identity and purpose of the structure, and acknowledging that doesn’t impose anything on anyone. I don’t understand what goes on in people’s heads sometimes.

  7. Eric the 1/2 troll Avatar
    Eric the 1/2 troll

    An example of PCness not being PC? Molehill indeed!

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