ECU president: 'Wise individuals' to guide chapel changes - - No One Gets You Closer

ECU president: 'Wise individuals' to guide chapel changes

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ADA, Okla. -- A committee is being formed to consider the future of religious symbols at the chapel on the campus of East Central University.

ECU President Dr. Katricia Pierson said a group of state leaders and trusted personnel will decide which steps to take next, although her authority to do that was challenged late Wednesday by the Oklahoma Attorney General.

Last Thursday, Pierson revealed that a national organization called Americans United for the Separation of Church and State had asked the university to remove all Christian iconography from the Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel, which has been a campus fixture for six decades.

"I received this letter, and I thought, 'Who is doing this to us? Who is doing this?'" Pierson said.  "We hit the pause button. Never intended to remove the items from the chapel."

Dr. Katricia Pierson

In a written statement issued last Thursday, Pierson said ECU was "responding appropriately" by removing Bibles from inside the chapel. "We are looking at the feasibility of removing the cross on the steeple," she added.

Pierson now concedes that the university acted too quickly.

By Friday morning, protesters had gathered outside the chapel and phones were ringing off the hook. People expressed concern about those Bibles and that cross.

State Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-District 48) was one of the many who expressed concerns.

"Certainly, I think we have reached a point in America where we take that freedom of religion and make it freedom from religion," he said.

Pierson now says a variety of opinions are being carefully considered, so no decisions will be made at this time. Her next step will be to get help.

"We will form a committee of, I will say, wise individuals... people who can give us guidance," she said.

There's no word on exactly who will make up that committee, but Ownbey said he hopes the best for the university.

"This all goes back to the Establishment Clause in the Constitution," he said. "It was intended to prohibit the federal government from declaring and supporting financially a national religion."

Pierson noted that although the letter from Americans United was written by attorneys, it was simply a letter of request. The school is not required to respond in any way, though that does not mean there will not be further action by the organization.