Carol Platt Liebau: A Fitting Conclusion

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Fitting Conclusion

Gene Nichol, the president of William and Mary -- the one who tried to have the cross removed from Wren Chapel, even as an annual Sex Workers Art Show was allowed on campus -- has resigned after learning that his contract won't be renewed.

The whole sorry episode illuminates the jurisprudential struggle over the First Amendment when it comes to religion. Given that William & Mary was founded in 1693 and the cross remained in the Chapel during and after the Constitution's drafting, it's clear that Nichol wasn't an originalist --rather, he was clearly of the "living Constitution" school that believes that it's okay to reinterpret the Constitution to conform to prevailing ideological fashions of the day.

Lefties like Nichol interpret the constitutional admonition against the establishment of religion to mean that all areas of William & Mary should be denuded of any religious symbols simply because it's a public university. In his formulation, the Constitution can be interpreted to mean that keeping a cross in a Christian chapel constitutes an "establishment" of religion -- motivated, it seems, by an underlying ideological agenda of making sure that students of other faiths don't feel "uncomfortable."

Obviously, everyone of any faith or none at all should be welcome to attend William & Mary University. That's why the First Amendment forbids invidious distinctions imposed by the government based on a religion (for example, "Only Protestants may attend a public university"). But how can anyone imagine that this worthy principle extend so far that it somehow becomes unconstitutional for a cross to remain in an on-campus chapel? If there were a Jewish temple on campus, would a Torah have to be removed? Or Muslim holy icons from a mosque? How, exactly, does the presence of such icons come to be viewed as a government endorsement of a particular faith so great as to be invidiously discriminatory against other religions or atheists?

How silly. It's time for the left to understand that recognition of a religion -- particularly that which animated the nation's founding -- doesn't constitute an establishment of it.


Blogger Amelia Peabody said...

Even Democratic Governor Tim Kaine defended having a cross in a Christian Chapel (275 years old, founded by the Anglican Church).

Four local papers, all once big Nichol fans, have printed editorials that best sum up why his contract was not renewed. Please read:

Flat Hat: Proper Decision:

Flat Hat: Nichol Lied, the Dream Died:

Virginia Informer: Time to Move on After Right Decision:

Daily Press: Nichol's Farewell:,0,7332211.story

Virginia Gazette: End of an Error:

Also, W&M students have defaced the Wren Building in the wake of Nichol's resignation. See photos here:
Virginia Informer: Nichol Supporters Vandalize Campus :

12:14 PM  

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