In response to a threatened lawsuit from an atheist group, the Steubenville, Ohio, city council says it will remove from its new city logo an image of the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s chapel.
The action drew criticism from Franciscan University’s vice president of advancement, Michael Hernon.
“We find it particularly troubling that an out-of-town and out-of-touch group targeted the university for removal from the logo solely because of our religious identity,” Hernon said July 25 on behalf of the university.
“For more than 65 years, Franciscan University of Steubenville has proudly served as an integral part of this community, and we were honored to have our chapel included in the new city of Steubenville logo.”
The city’s present logo, unveiled in December 2011, displays in silhouette the downtown cityscape and various landmarks of the city, including historic Fort Steuben, the Veterans' Memorial Bridge and Franciscan’s Christ the King Chapel.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation had threatened legal action over the logo’s inclusion of the chapel and the cross.
Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Steubenville Herald-Star that the logo is a symbol “that Steubenville is a theocracy and is a Christian city where non-Christians or nonbelievers 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.
“While we understand that Franciscan University is a part of the city, the city may not depict the university chapel and cross because to do so places the city's imprimatur behind Christianity,” she said.
On July 24, city officials decided to change the logo, citing concerns that a legal fight would be very expensive for the city.
Hernon said the city included the chapel because it represents Franciscan University, the “world-renowned center of higher learning and one of the largest employers in the region.”
Steubenville businessman Mark Nelson, who helped designed the logo for the city, told the Herald-Star he found it “very frustrating that one person or a small group can complain and ultimately change the city’s logo.”
Hernon said that the university declined the city’s offer to be represented on the logo by another chapel building because the chapel and its cross are the “centerpiece” of the university logo and are “at the heart of our Catholic educational mission.”
He said the chapel’s presence in the logo does not endorse any one religion, but “merely signifies one of the many treasures of Steubenville.”
Deacon Greg Kandra of New York, writing at the Patheos.com blog The Deacon’s Bench, strongly criticized the opposition to the logo: “This sort of foolishness only goes to show that politically correct yahoos on the left have at last become what they most despised among people on the right: intolerant, judgmental, petty and ... picayune.”