.- Georgetown Universityâs decision to comply with a White House request to cover up the âIHSâ monogram representing Jesus' name at President Obamaâs speech on Wednesday is drawing fire from the Cardinal Newman Society and Georgetown students, who are charging the university with âsacrificingâ its âCatholic and Jesuit identity.â
Reports surfaced today from attendees at President Obama's speech on the economy that the White House asked Georgetown University to cover up several emblems, including an IHS monogram above the president's head during his speech at the Jesuit university.
Although President Obama focused his speech on his administrationâs plans to spur economic growth, some in attendance noticed that the IHS monogramâan early 3rd century abbreviation for the name of Jesusâwas covered up for the speech.
CNA attempted to confirm the report with Georgetown officials, but no one available for comment before press time.
However, Julie Green Bataille, associate vice president for communications at the university, told CNSNews.com that the covering up of Jesus' name was prompted by âlogistical arrangements for yesterdayâs event.â According to Bataille, âGeorgetown honored the White House staffâs request to cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols behind Gaston Hall stage.â
She said the âsignage and symbolsâ were covered up because âthe pipe and drape wasnât high enough by itself to fully cover the IHS and crossâ and that it seemed more ârespectful to have them coveredâ so that viewers wouldnât see them âout of context.â
Patrick Reilly, the President of the Cardinal Newman Society, reacted to the report by telling CNA that Georgetownâs decision is another âoutrageous example of a Catholic university sacrificing principle for prestige.â
He wondered what the White House will request next month at Notre Dameâs commencement and said, âChristians simply cannot hide our faith in a drawer to satisfy an American president who shows no respect for Catholic identity or values.â
Georgetown students were also outraged by the Universityâs actions.
Paul Courtney, a Catholic Georgetown student and President of the Georgetown College Republicans, was an attendee at the Wednesday speech. He called the move âdishearteningâ and âsadâ that the University would sacrifice its âCatholic and Jesuit identityâ by covering the monogram.
Courtney didnât notice that the symbol was covered, and explained that âone of my professors pointed it out to me afterwards when we were discussing the event.â
Courtney hypothesized that the White House made the request because, âPresident Obama didn't want any symbols to appear in the photo that might suggest that there's any higher authority than him.â
Last year, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke at Georgetown and ânone of the stage was shrouded,â added Courtney.
CNA attempted to reach Georgetownâs College Democrats for comment, but they were also not available in time for publication.
Another Catholic student, Dave Gregory, who heads the Knights of Columbus council at Georgetown, said the University has covered up religious imagery for âHigh Holy Days and non-Catholic religious servicesâ on the âinfrequent occasionâ that the services are held in Gaston Hall, the site of Obamaâs speech.
Gregory told CNA that President Obama's visit was âby no means contingent upon the covering of the IHS,â saying that he strongly doubted that âObama's staff would have canceled the event.â
Georgetownâs decision to cover up the symbol did not surprise Gregory either, who said he thought it is âa bit shameful that they did so, as Georgetown has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.â
Gregory said he believes that the White House and Georgetownâs administration are just trying to âproduce excuses and rationalize their inappropriate decision,â and that he would not be surprised if there is more to the matter than is being shared with the media.