LATEST UPDATE, April 26:
Last night, we received an email from the WKU art student, Elaina Smith, (pasted below) who vandalized the Hilltoppers for Life cross display last Friday morning stating that she has not and has no intention of apologizing for her actions. This is in clear contradiction with what the WKU administration is claiming, as they have publicly stated that she has apologized.
While we continue to ask pro-lifers across the nation to contact WKU President, Dr. Gary Ransdell, and the University Police Captain for Professional Standards, Joe Harbaugh, and to sign our national petition, it has become clear that further legal action has to be explored.
This morning, our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund faxed a letter to WKU President Ransdell requesting that they respond to our 4 requests. (View the ADF letter here.)
Friends, thank so you much for your ongoing support. We are more motivated that ever to keep the pressure on the WKU Administration, as now is not the time to stand down. We must remain strong and make sure that the rights of the pro-lifers on campus are up-held. Our student pro-life groups across the nation face this situation and others similar to it daily. It is very important for pro-life students to know that they have constitutionally protected rights of freedom and expression and to make sure that universities, especially public universities, understand that they can’t treat pro-life students unfairly, disrupt their events, or allow them to be silenced.
If we don’t stand up for our rights, then who is to say that they won’t take them away? What has been happening in Canada for the past few years should serve as a warning to us all. There, we know of student pro-lifers who have been threatened with expulsion and arrest for simply daring to speak the truth about abortion. We cannot allow our nation to slip to that point of intolerance, as it is our mission to continue to educate our peers, friends, and family about the grim reality of abortion and offer real hope and support to women and men in need, so that we can abolish abortion in our lifetime.
April 25th Email from the Student Vandal:
—– Forwarded Message —–
From: “Smith, Elaina, C” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 3:11 PM
Subject: Elaina Smith
During the week of April 16th, the Hilltoppers for Life’s pro-life display remained un-interrupted. The student body tolerated this intrusion without major incident. The voice of the pro-life community was heard. On the last day of this event, I attempted to add to the visual dialogue with my own voice and was met with strong resistance. I take this subject very seriously, and had hoped to remind people of the effectiveness of condoms and other forms of contraception in preventing unwanted pregnancies. I do not ask that everyone agree with my point of view or the way in which I tried to express it. However, I stand by my actions. I do not believe that I impeded anyone else’s freedom of expression. I did not break any laws. I did not damage any property. I voluntarily removed the condoms even though I was not required to do so. At the time, I thought that the matter had ended there. I do not feel that I should apologize for attempting to exercise the freedoms that we all are entitled to.
APRIL 24th UPDATE:
This morning, the President of Western Kentucky University, Gary Ransdell, released and sent a statement (pasted below) to all of those who have expressed concerns over the desecration of the pro-life crosses on their campus last Friday morning with condoms by another WKU student, attempting to receive art class credit.
The facts of the case that the university has released are correct and in accordance with the facts we previously detailed. (Watch a video of the condoms being put on the crosses here.)
However, WKU is still not answering the serious constitutional concerns that SFLA has regarding this troubling case.
- The university has not asked the student who put condoms on the pro-life groups’ crosses to apologize to the group. To date, no formal and public apology for the desecration has been made to John Sohl, president of Hilltoppers for Life, or the entire group. If an apology was made, it was not made to Hilltoppers for Life.
- The WKU Campus Police have still not apologized for failing to uphold the constitutional rights of Hilltoppers for Life by demanding on arrival that the art student remove her condoms from the crosses immediately and taking her into custody for vandalizing and desecrating an approved event on campus.
- We have still not be able to determine from the university whether or not the art student will receive class credit for putting her condoms on the pro-life group’s crosses.
- The university has not yet assured us that the art student who desecrated the display will be disciplined for her vandalism.
-Kristina Arnold, the art professor of the student who placed the condoms on the crosses, has come out stating that she has no problem with the cross desecration, considers it a learning process, and may give the student class credit. WKU’s President thinks the issue is settled but there have been no apologies issued. Does the President, support Professor Arnold’s statement? Additionally, the student was armed with enough condoms to cover all the crosses, 3,700 of them. Who paid for the condoms – were they obtained from the student health center or a nearby abortion clinic? Did the school help pay for these “art” supplies?
We respectfully ask that President Ransdell and Western Kentucky University do 4 things immediately to remedy this situation and put it to rest:
1) Have Campus Police publicly apologize to Hilltoppers for Life for failing to uphold the constitutional rights of the approved pro-life group on campus
2) Ask the art student to issue a public apology to Hilltoppers for Life for desecrating an approved educational display
3) Confirm in writing that the art student did not receive any class credit for the desecration act and how the student will be disciplined for her vandalism and for interfering with Hilltoppers for Life’s expression.
4) Confirm in writing that the university did not pay for the condoms which desecrated the display.
Until further notice, we continue to ask pro-lifers from across the county to sign our nationwide petition to WKU , and continue to contact the WKU President, Dr. Gary Ransdell, at (270) 745-5394 or email@example.com and the Police Captain of Professional Standards, Joe Harbaugh, at his non-emergency number, 270-745-2543 or firstname.lastname@example.org to express your outrage and demand the university police apologize to WKU Hilltoppers for Life and to train the campus police that putting condoms on someone else’s crosses is not art or freedom of expression, it is desecration and vandalization.
Thank you so much for all of your support helping us to uphold the constitutional rights of student pro-lifers across the nation.
Students for Life of America
April 24th Western Kentucky University Response:
Thank you for your recent email regarding the unfortunate and distasteful act which occurred at the Hilltoppers for Life pro-life display on the WKU campus last Thursday night. My colleagues on the faculty and staff at WKU take this matter very seriously. Unfortunately, Dean Dennis George was incorrectly identified as a responsible party. He is a Dean of one of six undergraduate colleges and in no way relates to our campus Police or student disciplinary procedures.
In response to your message, we offer the following insights. The pro-life display was created by a sanctioned official WKU student organization called Hilltoppers for Life. They requested and received permission to create their display which consisted of red and black paper covering the bleacher seats of our campus amphitheater with several small crosses made from popsicle sticks glued to the paper. It was on display during the week of April 16 and was taken down, as scheduled on Friday morning, April 20.
On the morning of April 20 at around 2:30 a.m., one student and her non-student boyfriend chose to place condoms over some of the crosses as a gesture of birth control. They said it was an assignment from an Art Installation course that involves placing art exhibits across campus. The faculty member’s intent of the art assignment was not to target this particular display. That decision was made by the student who chose to make her own statement for birth control at the expense of the Hilltoppers for Life endeavor.
The Hilltoppers for Life students keeping watch over the exhibit, after allowing a few hundred condoms to be placed on the crosses, eventually called the police who arrived promptly. It was a calm scene and the police chose to keep it that way. They allowed the student to remove the condoms and leave peacefully—which is what occurred. There was no aggressive behavior or incident. The display was not damaged other than the disrespectful symbolism that this incident unfortunately created.
When I and the appropriate administrators learned of the situation, we promptly issued a statement in support of free speech and that the University does not condone any attempts by individuals or groups to inhibit anyone’s or any group’s right to free speech or creative activity. The proper administrators have also met with the student and faculty member. Our message was direct and firm.
No member of our University family should impede another member of our family’s freedom of speech or creative effort, especially when it comes to exercising religious freedoms. The offending student has apologized. This matter has been dealt with properly, decisively, and brought to a conclusion. Your interest in and support of WKU and its priorities for First Amendment rights is appreciated.
Gary A. Ransdell