Steubenville Cross-in-the-Logo Fight Continues, May Expand.

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

The city of Steubenville logo, as adopted in December 2011

“Victory”! The militantly secularist group declared on their website (no, I’m not naming them or linking to them—I will not help with their SEO).

They had pressured the city of Steubenville to agree in principle to remove the cross and steeple that represents Franciscan University of Steubenville (my employer) from its brand new logo. The spokesperson for the group, one Annie Laurie Gaylor, said the inclusion of the chapel steeple and cross is a sign “that Steubenville is a theocracy and is a Christian city where nonChristians or nonbelievers are not favored citizens.”

The city does not have the financial resources to defend itself against any lawsuit the group might file, did not seek outside help initially, and so decided the most prudent course of action would be simply to change the logo.

Victory, they declared.


Within hours of the story becoming news, at first only local, then going national, and international, a number of organizations contacted the city offering to defend the city’s case pro bono. Now the issue is “on hold” as the city weighs its options.

Gaylor was not pleased, and she said some rather remarkable things. From an article in the National Catholic Register:

Gaylor was glad the city originally backed down, and her organization’s website claimed it as an “[redacted] victory” on July 25. But on July 29, Gaylor said she fears a fight from the Becket Fund, the Liberty Counsel, the American Center for Law and Justice or other organizations that defend religious liberty.

These organizations are buttinskis,” Gaylor said. “They are outside groups that interject themselves into these controversies. If they want to fight us, I’m sure we can find a plaintiff.

All emphasis mine. Let’s look at that.

  • She fears a fight. Excellent. All bullies fear a fight. Bullies bully those whom they are confident they can manipulate and keep down through fear and intimidation. As soon as the bullied either bulks up or gets a friend the bully’s cowardice shows.
  • Perhaps the most hand-smacks-forehead line in the entire affair is “These organizations are buttinskis.” Read that again. She who sits up there in über-liberal Madison, Wisconsin, inserted herself into local affairs of a small town on the eastern edge of Ohio; she who who refuses to name a heretofore unknown local complainant; she condescends to inform us that Becket, et al., who are offering to defend the city against this coercion from outside bullies, *they* are the “buttinskis” here. I think along with God she also rejects irony or self-awareness.
  • I’m sure we can find a plaintiff.” What, your local complainant won’t step up and out of the shadow? Sez somethin’.

I’m getting an image in my head. It’s like when a cat has a chipmunk or small bird by the neck in its mouth but hasn’t killed it yet and you try to intervene to save the poor thing or put it out of its misery: the cat, who could be as nice and pleasant every other time, suddenly turns on the menacing growling and lashes out, deeply perturbed that you would dare try to save what it has *rightly* captured and subdued, and knowing that you could, very well, snatch its prey away and set it free.

Gaylor’s antipathy to religion-in-the-public-square isn’t reserved just to logos, though. She views merely entering a church, any church, for a government-related purpose as harmful:

Gaylor said she knows firsthand that mixing government and religion “causes injury” to atheists.

“My polling site was moved into a church one year,” Gaylor said. “I could not vote. I actually didn’t mind the church. It was a liberal church. I had attended concerts there. They often had liberal political functions there. My dad had been the janitor in that church. What caused injury was being told I had to enter a church in order to vote. It represented government coercion.”

Merely entering the hall, not even the sanctuary, of a church of unknown denomination —one she had entered willingly for concerts and otherwise finds common cause with—“caused injury.” It “represented government coercion.”

Again: she had, under her own power, with full knowledge, entered that church for concerts. The concerts possibly even had somewhat-sacred music. And she was okay with that. But when the polling location was moved to the church hall, all of a sudden she could not enter.

And we are valuing her opinion concerning what is and what is not a violation of the Establishment Clause?

If we cannot fight back against bullies like this I don’t know what fights we could still muster.


P.S. The Steubenville City Council meets in about an hour for a regular meeting at which this issue will be discussed. The big sticking point right now is the ability of the city to pay any legal fees and associated costs should they pursue the case and lose. The likely scenario should the city decide to fight the case with pro bono counsel is that the atheist group will back off, having been duly counter-intimidated. The case is eminently winnable on the merits, and both sides know that, but due diligence dictates that the city waits to pursue the potential litigation until they are certain those costs, if incurred (not likely), will be covered without further depleting the city’s limited resources.



  • Jason

    What next for the atheists? How about lobby to change the names of cities such as St. Louis, St. Paul, St. Petersburg, San Francisco… on the grounds that those cities are obviously “theocracies” and nobody who isn’t Catholic would feel comfortable living there.

    The city leaders of Steubenville should have told these imbeciles to go pound sand, then made the cross on the logo bigger.

  • David J. White

    Hi,Tom! David White from QHR choir so many years ago.

    If the Steubenville City Council caves, I hope that your employer changes its name from “Franciscan University of Steubenville” to just “Franciscan University”. If it weren’t for the University, how many people would have even heard of Steubenville? (I had, but then I’m from Ohio.)

    • Tom Crowe

      David— good to hear from you! Based on what’s happening I’m confident things will work out well for us. And honestly, I hadn’t heard of FUS until I moved to DC after college, though I grew up in Youngstown and went to college in Ohio.

  • anon

    Mara is a Media Matters Troll, too. If you read her comments on other CatholicVote posts, it is easy to spot. She has a real hatred of Catholics. She is a hater!

    • Tom Crowe

      Yeah, Mara was easy to spot. Even on second and third reading.

  • anon

    David is definitely a Media Matters or LBGT Troll. He has posted comments to other blogs on this site and used verbatim, MM and LBGT talking points. Do a search of Chick-fil-A and read the comments on the conservative- and even liberal- sites. The EXACT same words/arguments that David has used appear in comments by other liked-minded individuals. They are even in the same order. He is definitely not here to dialogue- he is here to demagogue. Because he is usually the very first commenter on the CatholicVote posts, it is very likely that he is a paid operative of any one of the many Soros-funded groups. Don’t feed this Troll.

    • Tom Crowe

      May be true, and time will tell if I return to that judgment, but his comments here were, upon further review, worth responding to.

  • BLeonard

    It’s absolutely hilarious that the city moto is “where you always have a home”. What that logo says to me is that it’s a place that you have a home if you are Christian. If you are Jewish, Muslim, or atheist, please go to the next town over.

    • Tom Crowe

      Really? Does it also say that to people who are afraid of bridges? People who are against guns? People who think we should not honor the Revolutionary War? People who have skin conditions that make the sun painful to them? People who have no home? Those elements are at least as prominent in the logo. But you choose to be offended by the cross. But hey, you’re right about one thing: you and anyone else can also choose to live elsewhere in this free country.

      • Mara

        There’s certainly a backlash going on in this country; a backlash at what however? I’m inclined to believe that one of the root causes of this backlash is the horrible truth that the Catholic Church covered up the sexual abuse of hundreds if not thousands of children over possibly hundreds of years. This, in my opinion, caused the bubble surrounding the Catholic hierarchy to burst showing a male dominated secretive society that could no longer be trusted. Truth became lies. Faith crumbled. The American people have reacted to that horrible cover-up. Steubenville is simply one example.

        • Tom Crowe

          All of that is certainly your opinion, I cannot deny that.

  • David

    As a lawyer, I would not say that the case is “imminently winnable” in the least. The Supreme Court found that the words “in god we trust” being added to currency was legal because it been repeated so often that it had lost all religious connotation. I doubt the same can be said of a cross emblazoned on a City’s logo. And yes, the City would be on the hook for damages and legal fees. I hope that they see the light and remove the religious emblem from their logo.

    • Tom Crowe

      Thank you for your crack legal advice, David. Too bad for you that others who can claim the title “lawyer” and who have actually studied the merits in this case disagree with you, they do think it is eminently winnable. In effect, the merits indicate that this case is similar to the “In God We Trust” situation because the University and therefore that steeple and cross are as significant in this city as the large bridge that dominates the image and the replica fort that also was included. It was included because it is a significant and manifestly identifiable component of Steubenville and not because it is a religious symbol.

      • David

        From what I can see, the Temple of Christ the King sits in the center of the Franciscan University and is not visible to most of the people of Steubenville. It’s also not listed on the architectural registry that was completed by the City, so I don’t see how it could be considered an important architectural landmark. Regardless, I do not see how emblazoning a cross on a City’s emblem can possibly be construed as similar to the “in god we trust” case, unless you are claiming that the cross has lost all significance as a symbol of christianity. Further, there are so many cases where courts have ruled that crosses on public lands are indeed an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, that I fail to see how a cross on a city logo could differ from those. Perhaps you are listening to the wrong lawyers.

        • Tom Crowe

          David— I have deleted my previous comments after reviewing the exchange. Apologies. Your comments read better when I’m not in a hurry. We do get some ridiculous comment bots but I believe I was hasty to think you are one. Bottom line, while the chapel is not visible from anywhere but on campus, it’s inclusion was not based on its visual inclusion in the cityscape—goodness knows there is no revolutionary war soldier on the cityscape either—but based on the importance of the University to and in the city, and the place the steeple and cross have in the University’s logo, making that steeple and cross the most recognizable image of the city’s most recognized and significant institution. The steeple and cross were included not because they are religious, but because they are an intrinsic component of the community in a way no other institution is. And a fair number of lawyers who agree that a free standing cross with no context would be ruled against hold the opinion that, given the context, this one is perfectly acceptable constitutionally. Again, sorry for jumping to judgment on your comments.

    • Kevin Doherty

      The cross is hardly “emblazoned” on the city logo, but is rather tastefully displayed as one small part of it. Check it out:
      The city has every right to decide what to include in their own logo without the help of an out of state “buttinski” organization.

      • David

        Actually, in looking at the photos of the church, the cross is different on the logo. It is given a more prominent position on the logo than in real life. These are the types of things that the court will consider as it tries to decide if this logo results in an endorsement of a particular religion. I suspect they will and will rule it unconstitutional.

        • Tom Crowe

          Per my previous comment, the logo is not meant to be a true-to-life cityscape, but an amalgamation of the most significant components of life in Steubenville. The University ranks on that scale and was recognized for this through inclusion in the logo.

          • Frank

            Tom, you revise your comments from earlier today. I think that’s shameful and dishonest.

          • Tom Crowe

            Thank you for your opinion. Had I changed them and not acknowledged this fact and not apologized for what my comments previously said you might have a point. But since I did both, you don’t. But thanks for playing.



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