Community Continues to Support Franciscan U. Amid Steubenville City Logo Controversy

Online petition to keep Catholic college's chapel in logo gains signatures.

The Steubenville City Council's decision to remove the silhouette of the Franciscan University chapel from the city’s logo has been met with opposition from the local community.

“A town should be able to define itself as it sees fit without being dictated to by an out-of-state special-interest group (that has) no knowledge or understanding towards our community,” local business owner Chris Wendt told Catholic News Agency Aug. 8.

The city's July 24 announcement that it would remove Franciscan University's chapel from its new logo was made after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened legal action.

Local residents responded to the decision with concern, and many of them are voicing their support for the original design.

“There's a lot of people all over the country who are concerned about this and are willing to support and stand with the city of Steubenville,” Wendt said.

Wendt, who is founder and president of the Steubenville-based web-design firm HyperDo Media, created an online petition allowing people to show support for the original city logo which was unveiled, but not officially adopted, in December 2011.

The petition site, which was launched just over a week ago and has gained 500-plus signatures, was created “for those who believe in freedom of religion and self-determination,” Wendt said.

Since the threat of a lawsuit was raised, local attorneys Terry McKeegan and Brian Scarnecchia, among others, have offered pro-bono legal assistance to the city, should a case develop. Wendt hopes that his website will help “amplify” their efforts.

“What is at stake is religious freedom,” Wendt said.

When the city announced it would remove the chapel from its logo, Franciscan University, which provides more than 450 jobs and millions of dollars of revenue each year to the area, declined the offer to be represented in the logo by another campus building.

Wendt said that although Franciscan's chapel was not chosen for religious reasons, anti-religious intentions are behind the push for its removal.

“Because (the Freedom From Religion Foundation) made it a religious-freedom issue, it's attacking every Catholic in the United States,” Wendt said.

For that reason, he asserted, “every Catholic should be worried (about) how next they will lose their religious freedom.”

“If I don't go on record fighting for my own religious freedom as a Catholic, then I'll deserve the blame of my children and grandchildren.”