(City of) Steubenville Yields to Militant Secularists

I work at Franciscan University of Steubenville. I am open about this. But what I write here is entirely my opinion and does not reflect the official position of the University in any manner. That you can find here.

The logo of the city of Steubenville, as adopted in December 2011

The city of Steubenville logo, as adopted in December 2011

Now my two cents: The city of Steubenville adopted a new logo in December which included a Revolutionary War soldier and the reproduction of Revolutionary War-era Fort Steuben, for which the city is named, the cityscape, and the dominant image of the Veterans Memorial Bridge, the most prominent visual feature of the area. Off to the side of the logo is the steeple and cross atop Christ the King Chapel, the most prominent feature of the logo of Franciscan University of Steubenville. The University lauded the city for this inclusion.

It was right and appropriate for the city to include the logo of the University in its logo.

Today we learned that the city, bowing to pressure from the militantly secularist Freedom From Religion Foundation, has decided to remove the Chapel and cross.

Franciscan University’s iconic cross and chapel were not included in the city’s logo because we are a Catholic institution. They were not included because the Chapel is especially lovely. They were included because the city logo was intended to represent the most prominent features of life in the city of Steubenville, and Franciscan University of Steubenville has been one of those for decades.

Franciscan University of Steubenville is one of the largest employers in the city, second only to the hospital system (though I may be wrong—we may have surpassed the hospitals). Franciscan brings thousands of people from across the country and many other countries, not only as students, but many thousands every summer for our robust and unique summer conferences. Those thousands of people plus the hundreds of families of faculty and staff who live in and around this city who are raising their children here because of this University contribute mightily to the local economy. Many public-private partnerships have seen the University and the city collaborate to improve life here in town. Our student-led missionary outreach activities directly assist the most disadvantaged in town. And Franciscan University of Steubenville has changed Steubenville’s place “on the map.”

Even just thirty years ago if someone outside the Ohio River Valley had heard of Steubenville the association was mob activity, drugs, and prostitution. Abe Bryan, the late, long-time, beloved coach of the Steubenville “Big Red” football team (high school football passion here rivals that of any school in Texas), said as much during his acceptance speech when the University honored him with the President’s Award at the 2011 Century Club Awards Dinner.

But, Bryan noted, when Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, took the reins of the dying College of Steubenville in 1974, launched the household system and the summer conferences in 1975 a whole new chapter began. Now, because of the fearless faith of our graduates going nationwide to teach and lead with a love for the Church, and particularly because our youth conferences happen in 14 locations nationwide and one in Canada, if someone has heard of Steubenville across this country the association is Franciscan University of Steubenville and our summer conferences—they may know it only as “Steubenville,” or “Steubie U” and not even know that it’s called “Franciscan University,” so associated with the city has our activity become.

The phenomenon is global as well. Fifteen years ago during a Papal Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Blessed John Paul II was welcoming the different groups who had come. When he mentioned the students who had come to Rome from our perennial study abroad program in Austria our students let out a cheer loud enough that the great Pope paused, turned, smiled, and said, “Ah, Steubenville!”

And more recently this happened (how can you not love that pause and smile)?

“Steubenville” is known because Franciscan University of Steubenville is known.

The major element of the University’s logo was included in the city logo not because Franciscan is a Catholic institution but because it is a major component of the life of the city in a way no other institution is. Not to include the University’s logo would be to ignore a major part of what makes this city what it is.

To say it another way: the University logo was incorporated into the city logo because the University is a major part of the city just as the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge and Historic Fort Steuben are. Inclusion does not push Christianity on anyone and does not make the city’s logo an exclusively Christian work of art—it recognizes the reality of the life of the city. The city offered to include another campus structure in the logo, an offer the University refused because no other edifice or architectural feature so directly represents the institution—no representation at all would be equal to unrecognizable representation.

Thus the University is dis-recognized simply because some militant secularists have a too-broad reading of the Establishment Clause. The same justification that keeps “In God We Trust” on our money, “under God” in the Pledge, and that allows St. Louis, Corpus Christi, St. Augustine, and the countless cities that start with “San” in the southwest and all over California to retain their Christian-origin names applies here. Use of Christian imagery in the logo is a result of the decision to honor what makes the locality what it is rather than the motivating principle of the new logo design.

And, to put it bluntly, because I know this will come up in the comments, if a Jewish temple or a mosque were as significant in Steubenville as is Franciscan University of Steubenville I would heartily support the inclusion of a Star of David or a minaret with crescent moon in the logo. I would not feel it endorsed those religions, but bespoke the prominence of those institutions in the city. But they are not. Franciscan University is. Our logo is the steeple of our chapel. The city saw fit to include us in the logo. No oppressive threats of lawsuits from outsiders should alter that.

We have public creches and menorahs, chaplains of all faiths paid by the military, various religious symbols in countless government places, and many other manifestations of the religious heritage of the citizens of this country in places owned and operated by the government. The push to remove them all is an attack on the heritage that has formed this country and to supplant all religion with irreligion, which results in the religion of the state and the raw exercise of power. That push needs to be resisted rather than settled out of court.





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