Oh, for [Delete Deity]‘s Sake!–UPDATE 3

A friend posted this news item from the Steubenville, Ohio Herald-Star on her Facebook page, along with what I think is a remarkably restrained amount of dudgeon:

STEUBENVILLE – City officials agreed Tuesday night to change the city logo after a Madison, Wis., organization threatened legal action.

Law Director S. Gary Repella announced the decision following a 15-minute closed-door meeting with City Council members.

“We will be approaching Mark Nelson of Nelson Fine Art and Gifts and asking him to redesign the city logo to remove the cross and silhouette of the Christ the King Chapel on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus.,” said Repella.

“We were contacted in May by the Freedom from Religion Foundation Inc. in Madison, Wis., who said one of our citizens had complained about the city logo. During the past several months the foundation sent me their research and past case law regarding religious symbols. I researched current case law and found a lot of case laws that do not allow religious symbols in government symbols,” continued Repella.

We have discussed the issue with City Council and we will ask Mark Nelson to design a silhouette of another building such as the library or a dormitory for the city logo. The council realizes the potential cost to our city taxpayers may be very expensive to try to win the case,” added Repella.

Forget that the silhouette of the Franciscan University chapel with its hideously offensive cross, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, makes up only about a quarter of the city’s logo, or that the University is one of the city’s biggest employers and contributors to the local economy. Budgets are tight, and it’s cheaper, they think, to knuckle under to bullies than to defend the lawsuits the bullies are using instead of brass knuckles these days.

I’m a lot less polite than my friend, and my dudgeon is considerably higher. I think the Steubenville City Council didn’t take time to do their due diligence. If they had done the five minutes of Googling I did, they might have found that cities like Salt Lake City, Utah have no problem at all incorporating recognizably religious architecture into their official seals: Salt Lake City’s seal is entirely taken up by a representation of the Mormon Tabernacle. [Update: A source has informed me I'm mistaken here. Salt Lake City's seal features the City and County Bldg, which was purposely designed by non-Mormons to be a secular version of the Tabernacle, complete with soaring tower topped by a statue of the secular goddess Columbia in place of the Angel Moroni. There are still religious echoes here, and in many other city and state symbols.] The seal of the city of San Antonio, TX is crowned by a representation of the Alamo—or Mission San Antonio de Valero, to give it its baptismal name. San Diego, CA incorporates the mission bell into its city seal to evoke the role played in the city’s founding by Franciscan missionaries. The mission bell also appears as a symbol up and down California’s Highway 101, the path traveled by Franciscan Padre Junipero Serra.

Other cities don’t hesitate to incorporate religious images. Las Cruces, New Mexico’s city logo features, not surprisingly, obviously Christian crosses. Salem, Massachusetts recently spent a boatload of bucks retooling its city signage—including police cars and police badges—to include a witch on a broomstick, and proudly calls itself The Witch City. Yoohoo, Freedom from Religion Foundation! Wicca is a religion.

This asinine and juvenile movement to scrub the US of every vestige of religion’s contributions to history and culture will, I hope, collapse in itself eventually. One can only (ssssssssh!) pray, anyway. But in the meantime, even though I hate giving those bozos ideas, let me just suggest what we lose if we wipe religion off the map:

—Thousands of place names rooted in religion: from St Augustine, FL, the nation’s oldest city, to Alaska’s Archangel Valley; the litany of saints that is California alone (San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, San Gabriel, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, San Diego [whose feast day is today]), not to mention the City of Our Lady herself, Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles), not to mention St Paul, MN, St Louis, MO, etc, etc; the biblical names, from both Testaments (Salem, Zion, Bethlehem, Bethany); the names honored in Mormon tradition (Manti, Nephi, Lehi); the names associated with the gods and goddesses of classical Greece and Rome, and those that reflect the indigenous spiritualities of Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.

—Sports teams like the Angels, Padres, Saints (these are already becoming the Aints for a day in response to a challenge from atheists), Blue Devils, Demon Deacons, and more.

—Historical landmarks promoted by state tourism departments, like the California Missions, the Alamo, the Mormon Tabernacle, New York’s Central Synagogue, the onion-domed Russian Orthodox churches of the Pacific Northwest.

If the citizens (of all faiths and none) and fans of and visitors to all these deeply ingrained parts of American life brushed with religion would simply stand up to the bullies from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, this particular manifestation of nonsense could be stifled overnight.

But just in case nobody cares, be prepared for a future in which every place in the country is known, like NY public schools, by a nice bland inoffensive number. In which case I’ll be relocating—to St Petersburg, Russia, or Saint-Tropez, France, or Athens, Greece, or . . . . Well, you get it.

If only the Steubenville City Council would.


Updated: This struck a chord with (or dropped a whole piano on) Deacon Greg Kandra, who picks up the dudgeon and runs with it down the Mississippi to Louisiana, brilliantly.

Update 2: Franciscan University of Steubenville supplies a classy response (h/t Elizabeth Scalia), refusing to let the city substitute a dorm for their landmark chapel.


  • AM

    Really?! The city is knuckling under to bullies from another state because ONE person complained?! Gee, will I get what I want if I start complaint about things and threatening law suits?

    • Chris

      And Sacramento, CA gets to keep its name?

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  • Michael

    Interesting that they call their organization, Freedom FROM Religion (my emphasis added). I always thought we had Freedom OF Religion. Meaning we coud practice whatever faith or no faith at our own choosing. This group seeks to impose their non-belief on others. This is not what the founding fathers had in mind. Too bad the city fathers of Steubenville lack the courage and intestinal fortitude of our FFs. If they are concerned about the costs of a lawsuit, I would gladly put my money where y mouth is and send a donation.

  • FWKen

    To be fair, the Alamo doesn’t have religious connotations for most Texans. The point stands, however, for the other missions, which are active Catholic parishes.

    This is pretty standard fare for the Freedom from Religion people.

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  • Peter Brown

    Maryland’s state flag is pretty heavy on the religious symbols, too. Those might even be easier for atheist eyes to recognize.

    • Bill Guentner

      Maryland was named after Mary, Mother of Jesus. I guess they will need to change the name of the state.

      • Bill Guentner

        Woooops. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Sorry folks.

      • joannemcportland

        Actually, it was named for Queen Henrietta Maria, who was named for Mary. But OK. :)

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Wicca is a politically correct religion and most people don’t take it seriously. That’s why it passes the Gestapo smell test.

    I said this on Anchoress in repsonse to this, I might as well repeat it here:
    It doesn’t surprise me any more. I don’t know for a fact, but I’m willing to bet it’s people on the left side of the political divide that instigate this sort of thing and give into it. How any religious person can support the anti-religious left any more is beyond me.

  • ZJohn

    One person complains, and it’s that easy? What if every other person wanted it there? I’d say they should have a good old fashioned vote, and see what the people want.

    • Mouse

      Exactly. Can I complain because my state doesn’t have a cross in it’s logo, thereby implying that religion is excluded and a lack of religion is preferred? According to the mangled version of the 1st amendment that these folks promote, the gov’t should not make any statement or symbol of religion at all. Well, excluding religion IS a statement and a kind of preference too…a preference for the absence of religion is just as exclusionary and “emotionally damaging” as they claim preference for religion is… since some of these atheists are claiming it is “emotionally damaging” to them to see these symbols. Really? Are they so wimpy that they have to live in an atheistic bubble? Well, they are emotionally damaging the rest of us by attacking our history all the time.

      The fact is that the image is of FSU’s chapel, and to have it on there without a cross is absurd. It would just be an unidentifiable nubby looking thing! And FSU is the thing the city is known for. (Let’s be real. None of us outside of Ohio know anything about Steubenville except that it’s where FSU is!!) FSU is probably the main attraction of money into the area too…talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

    • Lynn

      I haven’t read all the comments, but all of this stupidity just wears me out. Do we want to do away with all heritage? The little boy in “The Incredibles” says, “if everyone is special, then no one is special.” If we are all “diverse,” then no one is diverse. I’m so tired of one or two people determining what is best for the rest of the country

      And I will say what I always say. We have children starving for love in this country. We have children who need to learn to read. Why don’t they spend their energy on helping those children instead of spending so much time and money over something that hurts no one?

  • Mamie

    I am waiting–the single most recognizable building at the Air Force Academy is the Chapel. It dominates the campus. Will we be removing it soon, just like they’ve removed everything else.

  • http://yahoo.com Lou J Apa

    It would seem to me that a city which owes so much of it’s wealth on the Catholic institution of higher learning would be sensitive to the
    “a-theist” bores demand to remove a catholic cross at any time! Stupid-Ville rather!!

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    • Ryan

      At the risk of being inflammatory…I took a look at the logo, and in 6 seconds was shocked by what I saw. I didn’t notice the chapel or the cross at first. What I noticed is an image that looks like a sexual act. That is what I find shocking and offensive for a town logo!

  • michelle e.

    Well, Michelle Obama did promise to ‘change our history.’ People will start to vote with their feet after they have had enough of the wealth redistributionist secular progressive cry-baby ninnies.

  • http://SalemWitchWiles.blogspot.com Salem Witch Wiles

    I’m sorry, but the writer of these needs to be corrected about Salem in two regards and I would suggest better research before spreading disinformation in a blog post in the future.

    Firstly, the witch on the broomstick logo has everywhere, and Salem has been known as “The Witch City” for centuries. The logo was put on the police cars DECADES ago.

    But much more importantly, the symbol of the witch on the broomstick has nothing to do with REAL witchcraft. We Salem witches are quick to point out the difference between real witchcraft and cartoonish fun fake witchcraft – we have a lot of BOTH in this city.

    Lastly, most witches in Salem are not Wiccan. Peace.

  • G.R.

    The City of Pensacola has had a cross on its seal commemorating our Spanish and Catholic heritage:

  • Mouse

    You know, the Wisconsin-based organization is surely the Freedom from Religion Foundation. And basically they are going everywhere they can picking fights about these matters. In each of the last 3 articles I heard about where they were involved, they say that some local person contacted them and complained. But the name of this person is never mentioned. I have begun to suspect that this person doesn’t exist, and they are just going around looking for battles. If the complainant exists, he or she should be made known to the public. Otherwise it looks even more like FFRF is just scanning cities’ logos and such to see where they can attack simply because they can’t stand the fact that this culture and its history is not atheistic.

    Of course, I think it’s bogus even if they do have real complainants. What kind of people go out of their way to attack the heritage of places? If you’re in Saudi Arabia, you can expect to see a crescent. If you’re in France, or the UK, or the US, or Colombia, you can expect to see some crosses. That’s called culture and history. I prefer to see all religious symbols represented than to see these maniacs force us all to strip the world bare of all symbols whatsover.

    And our Founding Fathers did not believe in a buck naked public square…they wrote the stuff, and if that’s what it meant, they would have done that themselves.

    Meanwhile, I think every Christian in Steubenville should wear a tee shirt on a cross on it every time they go out in public just to annoy the FFRF-ers. Enough is enough. It’s a free country…or was!

  • Charles

    How is this atheists’ scrubbing of history any different than the Taliban blowing up Buddhist heritage sites?

  • Jim

    Well, if they are going to knuckle under pressure like this, because some say the cross on a pieced of recognizable architecture is offensive, then let’s go “all out.” I find the image of the man holding some “type” of bayonet or gun offensive. Should there not also be a WOMAN in the logo? Should not the gun be removed, because it will engage little minds, posing the notion of doing violence? WHEN DOES THE INSANITY STOP?

  • http://n/a scott

    Change their name to Stupidville

    • joannemcportland

      Well, I might agree, but the folks at Franciscan University are being much nicer than either of us would be. They issued another statement yesterday in response to suggestions that the university, in turn, drop Steubenville from its name, saying they value the relationship between the city and the school, decry the Freedom from Religion Foundation for putting the city in a seemingly impossible bind, and are working toward a mutually agreeable solution.

  • Elaine Rainey

    When traveling through Steubenville for the only purpose of visiting the University, my children were calling the town “Stupidville” because we could not find a public restroom. I, of course, corrected them. Now…I think they were actually on to something!

  • Jenkins Minor

    Ah, yes. The not-my-favorite-part of my hometown: Annie Laurie Gaylor & her former-Baptist-preacher hubby. The woman has the voice of an especially whiny 9-year-old. I know this because I used to volunteer to answer phone for WI Public Radio and you could tell it was Annie Laurie from across the room. My guess it that nobody local complained; I know from experience that the FFR folks spend a lot of time surfing the Net for potential offenses.

    Yes, Madison is a pretty lefty place (often described as x-number-of square miles, surrounded by reality). But really & truly folks, and I raised my kids there– we’re not all like Annie Laurie. Our parish– Grace Episcopal Church, the oldest church in Madison, right on Capitol Square– strives to live the Gospel in so many ways, from the food pantry to the homeless shelter. It is possible to be progressive, lefty, whatever AND to be a Christian. Just sayin’…

  • Amy

    While this case is a bit ridiculous, as the chapel would to someone familiar to the town seem to indicate a landmark rather than a religious connotation to the government of the town, it is far far more ridiculous that many of the commenters seem to think Christians are the ones being oppressed in this country. Let’s be clear here. People routinely freak out when Muslims want to /build/ a place of worship, and not just in Manhattan; I’d hate to see what some of the same people who whine about how oppressed Christians are would do if there were a star and crescent on an official town sign where they lived. Also, as long as my dental hygienist, my neighbors, and my cousin, see nothing wrong with complaining about how horrified they were when their daughter dated an atheist (“I mean, how could I trust he had morals?”) or saying “It’s one nation under God, or you can get out” (historically inaccurate, not to mention incredibly rude, and, I daresay, rather an unAmerican sentiment as I understand the Enlightenment values of the Founding Fathers) to me while assuming that “such a nice moral girl” couldn’t possibly be one of those evil heathen unbelievers, well. Forgive me, but the majority, when the majority also has political power, CANNOT by definition be oppressed. And having your religion treated like everyone else’s and made subject to the same rules Christians would impose on Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc (as it’s been proven some— mostly on the far right– will do, particularly when after whinging about not being allowed to open a Christian charter school, after a Muslim group wanted to do the same, the same people panicked and revoked their protest against the rule that was preventing them– that’s not oppression, that’s equality. IF YOU ARE IN POWER, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU ALSO TO BE OPPRESSED. When the idea of making laws solely based on Christian tenets is so much as entertained, let alone enacted, as it has been in birth control and same-sex marriage issues, how you can pretend that you’re being persecuted is far, far beyond my comprehension. My very Christian parents somehow manage to understand that not having everyone else abide by the rules of your particular stripe of your religion is not the same thing as being oppressed, not by a long shot; it’s called being part of society. Yeah, the Freedom from Religion society is being pedantic here– but laws based on some people’s interpretation of Christianity are being passed that impact people’s lives a hell of a lot more than a town sign does. I’m playing you a nice hymn on the world’s smallest violin.

    • joannemcportland

      I think you have some points I would agree with, but this is a blog post of your own. In no way was I implying Christians (a large and multilithic group indeed, in spite of efforts to paint us all as far-right biblical literalists) are oppressed in this country. I was simply saying that showing a religious landmark on a government sign does not establish religion, exert dominance over other religions or people who want nothing to do with religion, or force you to do anything abhorrent. Ease off on the caps lock, OK?

  • Ruth Grant

    You caved. Shame on you. You should have called their bluff. You could have easily defended that logo No guts. No glory………………….

    • joannemcportland

      Actually, the council is still keeping the question open. There may be less caving. Stay tuned.

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