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Archive for Friday, February 6, 2004

Judge’s ruling expected this month in case pitting Catholics vs. Washburn

February 6, 2004

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— A federal judge expects to decide by Feb. 20 whether to issue a preliminary injunction that would force the removal a statue on the campus of Topeka's Washburn University that critics find offensive to Roman Catholics.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Van Bebber on Wednesday completed a hearing on the injunction request, and set a Feb. 13 deadline for additional filings. He expects to rule within a week of that deadline.

The statue, titled "Holier Than Thou" by sculptor Jerry Boyle, of Longmont, Colo., has been on display since September outside the Washburn student union and is scheduled to remain until summer.

Some critics contend the ceremonial hat worn by a clergyman depicted in Boyle's work resembles a phallus, and Archbishop James P. Keleher of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas testified Tuesday the statue mocked Catholic teaching and faith.

Andrew Strohl, a Washburn student, and biology professor Thomas O'Connor filed the suit against the university, seeking to have the statue removed from the campus.

Wednesday, Washburn President Jerry Farley testified that art displays -- even controversial ones -- were an important part of educating students.

"We try to provide a wide exposure to students to all different stimuli," said Farley, a defendant in the lawsuit with the university and its board of regents. "We feel it broadens the education opportunities for students."

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