Apr 26, 2012Print This Post
A Western Kentucky University art professor and her student are defending what pro-life students are calling an act of desecration and vandalism after the student draped hundreds of condoms on top of crosses displayed in a pro-life exhibit.
The crosses were part of a university-sanctioned display by Hilltopper’s For Life. A member of the group actually captured student Elaina Smith as she and another person placed condoms on many of the 3,700 crosses. She reportedly told the pro-lifers that the desecration was part of a class art project.
Smith was asked to stop and when she refused, they called Western Kentucky’s campus police. The police refused to stop the cross desecration, telling the pro-life students that it was a First Amendment issue.
Smith’s project was reportedly for Professor Kristina Arnold’s class. Arnold told television station WBKO that she did not disprove of the idea and that she “encourages learning.”
“Learning and debating are not always pretty or polite processes,” she wrote in a statement to the television station. “Critical engagement with ideas can get messy.”
Kristen Hawkins, the executive director for Students For Life, told Fox News that she was shocked that a university professor would condone vandalism.
“I think it’s outrageous the university professor would say this,” Hawkins said. “For the university and the professor to write this off as not being a big deal – this is pretty shocking. It’s shocking they would not be willing to stand up for the rights of their students.”
Hawkins provided Fox News with a copy of an email that Smith sent defending her actions.
“I stand by my actions,” Smith wrote. “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.”
Western Kentucky released a statement calling the incident “disrespectful symbolism.” The university also said the Smith apologizing – something she denied in the email and to local media.
“I do not feel that I should apologize for attempting to exercise the freedoms that we are all entitled to,” she wrote.
The Hilltoppers For Life are now represented by the Alliance Defense Fund. They’ve sent a letter to the university demanding answers and an official apology.
“It appears that several WKU officials knew this vandalism would occur, did nothing to stop it, and allowed it to continue,” wrote attorney Travis Barham. “Our clients were exercising their First Amendment rights, and it is the duty of WKU officials to protect those freedoms, not passively allow them to be violated.”
The Alliance Defense Fund sent a list of eight demands to the university. In addition to a public apology, they also want to know who purchased and supplied Smith with 3,700 condoms. They also want assurances that the student will be punished for her act of vandalism.
“At a public university, ‘critical engagement’ also involves respecting the free speech rights of fellow students, something Ms. Smith and Dr. Arnold both missed,” Barham wrote.
A university spokesman told Fox News that to their knowledge, the incident is closed.