Movement to save chapel in Steubenville city logo grows

Steubenville, Ohio, Aug 10, 2012 / 04:03 am (CNA).- The Steubenville City Council's decision to remove the silhouette of the Franciscan University chapel from the city’s logo has been met with opposition from the local community.

“A town should be able to define itself as it sees fit without being dictated to by an out of state special interest group (that has) no knowledge or understanding towards our community,” local business owner Chris Wendt told CNA Aug. 8.

The city's July 24 announcement that it would remove Franciscan University's chapel from its new logo was made after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened legal action.

Local residents responded to the decision with concern, and many of  them are voicing their support for the original design.

“There's a lot of people all over the country that are concerned about this and are willing to support and stand with the City of Steubenville,” he said.

Wendt, who is founder and president of the Steubenville-based web design firm HyperDo Media, created an online petition allowing people to show support for the original city logo which was unveiled, but not officially adopted, in December 2011.

The petition site, which was launched just over a week ago and has gained over 500 signatures, was created “for those who believe in freedom of religion and self-determination,” Wendt said.

Since the threat of a lawsuit was raised, local attorneys Terry McKeegan and Brian Scarnecchia, among others, have offered pro-bono legal assistance to the city, should a case develop. Wendt hopes that his website will help “amplify” their efforts.

“What is at stake is religious freedom,” Wendt said.

When the city announced it would remove the chapel from its logo, Franciscan University, which provides over 450 jobs and millions of dollars of revenue each year to the area, declined the offer to be represented in the logo by another campus building.

“No other campus symbol or architectural feature so immediately identifies the University,” said Michael Hernon, Franciscan's president of advancement, in a July 25 press release.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation's Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Steubenville Herald-Star that the logo symbolizes “that Steubenville is a theocracy and is a Christian city where non-Christians or non-believers are not favored citizens.”

She said a Steubenville citizen had contacted her organization to complain about the logo, which Gaylor said violates the U.S. Constitution because it includes the chapel.

Wendt said that although Franciscan's chapel was not chosen for religious reasons, anti-religious intentions are behind the push for its removal.

“Because (the Freedom From Religion Foundation) made it a religious freedom issue, it's attacking every Catholic in the United States,” Wendt said.

For that reason, he asserted, “every Catholic should be worried (about) how next they will lose their religious freedom.”

“If I don't go on record fighting for my own religious freedom as a Catholic, then I'll deserve the blame of my children and grandchildren.”

For more information on Wendt's efforts to keep the chapel in the city's logo, visit:
http://www.steubenvillelogo.org/

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