The attorney general for the state of Oklahoma is standing up to defend religious rights after East Central University was told last week to take down crosses, Bibles and other religious symbols at their campus chapel, according to a report in US News & World Report.
"The highest priority must be placed on ensuring the defense of Oklahomans' religious freedom under the law," Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter states in a letter.
Attorneys from the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State insists that crosses, Bibles, and other religious symbols at the campus chapel violate federal law under the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.
The university was notified through a letter that read:
"We have received a complaint that East Central University's Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel has permanent religious iconography on display," the letter states.
"These displays include Latin crosses on the top of and inside the building, Bibles, and a Christian altar. While it is legal for a public university to have a space that can be used by students for religious worship so long as that space is not dedicated solely to that purpose, it is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to display religious iconography on government property. Please remove or cover the religious displays and items," it continued.
The university responded and said they would remove the so-called offensive items, but they changed their stance after receiving backlash from the community.
"We moved too quickly," said Katricia Pierson, ECU president. "We regret not taking time to pause and thoughtfully consider the request and the results of our actions on all of the students, faculty and community members who we serve."
Attorney General Hunter requested on Thursday that the university refer all questions regarding the chapel to his office.
He says the letter is an implicit threat to take legal action and should be directed to him as the state's chief legal officer.
"I am writing to make clear that the United States Constitution does not require Oklahoma's public universities to efface building features or remove other items simply because they are connected to religious expression or heritage," stated the letter from Hunter.
"My office stands ready to defend the religious freedom of Oklahomans from misleading tactics such as the ones employed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State," he added.
"The group's demand letter rests on scare tactics, not a fair application of legal precedents. I will not allow guile and intimidation to dictate how Oklahoma's public universities meet their legal obligations," he also said.