Mar 4, 2004 / 22:00 pm
A federal judge in Kansas has ruled that Washburn University did not violate the constitution by prominently displaying a sculpture that depicts a Catholic bishop with a grotesque facial expression, wearing a miter that resembles a phallus.
The Thomas More Law Center brought the lawsuit on behalf of Thomas O’Connor, a Washburn professor of 39 years, and Andrew Strobl, a senior at Washburn, after the university refused to act on complaints by numerous Catholics, including the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, and remove the sculpture, entitled “Holier than Thou.” The lawsuit alleged that the sculpture conveyed hostility toward the Catholic faith in violation of the Establishment Clause
But university president Jerry Farley defended the display as fulfilling a purpose of art: “to engage us intellectually and emotionally.”
In his decision, the judge maintained that Washburn had a secular purpose for displaying this sculpture because “it functions to aesthetically enhance Washburn’s campus, broaden the educational experiences [and] increase the intellectual capacities of Washburn’s students.”