Professor Desecrates Eucharist, Koran in Anti-Religious Campaign

July 28, 2008 - 5:27 PM
Christian groups are calling on the University of Minnesota to discipline a professor who carried out his threat to desecrate both the Eucharist and the Koran.
(CNSNews.com) - Christian groups are calling on the University of Minnesota at Morris to discipline a professor who has apparently carried out his threat to desecrate both the Eucharist and the Koran. At the same time, the president of an agnostic and atheist group has called on people to speak out against the “barbaric ritual” of Catholics partaking of the Eucharist.
 
A Muslim group in the United States, meanwhile, is dismissing the episode as the behavior of a “bigot.”
 
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission are calling for disciplinary action against biologist Paul Z. Myers.
 
On July 24, he placed a video on his blog in which the Eucharist – the communion wafer that Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ after it has been consecrated by a priest during Mass – was pierced with a rusty nail.
 
Myers then nailed the Eucharist to pages torn out of the Koran, the Islamic holy book, and then threw everything in the trash.
 
On July 8, Myers had pledged on his blog to “treat that silly book [the Koran] with disrespect” and to desecrate the Eucharist, which he referred to as “that *******d cracker.”
 
“It’s one thing for a crank to say really hateful things, it’s another thing for a respected and educated professor to make such really hateful and vile comments and then link it to the university’s Web site,” said Susan Fani, the Catholic League’s director of communications. “We expect the university to take action.”
 
Fani said Myers violated the school’s code of conduct, which states that faculty must be “civil” when dealing with others.
 
Gary Cass, president of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, said Myers was doing far more than giving his opinion on Holy Communion.
 
“We’d like the university to show some wisdom here to rein this guy in,” Cass said. “If they don’t do anything, they’re effectively condoning what this man has done. There’s an old legal axiom, silence is consent. So, by their silence, they’re consenting to being associated with this.
 
“This is clearly an attempt to be inflammatory and outrageous and to what end?” said Cass. “What constructive result did this man achieve except demonstrating his own basic incivility?”
 
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), meanwhile, is not planning to take action, according to its spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper.
 
“These are publicity seekers. They want attention, and they just try to provoke people in any way they can to get attention, and we’re not going to play their game,” Hooper told CNSNews.com. “Being a bigot is not illegal. Being stupid and wrongheaded and anti-Muslim, and intolerant – that’s not illegal.”
 
The only way CAIR would call for action, Hooper said, would be if the desecration had been carried out by – or at the request of – a government official.
 
“But if it’s just some little-known professor trying to provoke people on his blog, we’re not going to help him get publicity,” he said.
 
Myers, an avowed atheist, said he started his campaign to protest what he considered the unfair treatment of a University of Central Florida student who was disciplined after he recently stole the Eucharist from a Catholic Mass to protest student fees that go towards religious services.
 
Myers, meanwhile, has defenders. Chief among them is an atheist group: the Freedom from Religion Foundation, whose co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, told CNSNews.com that it was “about time” people spoke out against what she called the “barbaric ritual” of partaking of the Eucharist.
 
“If you look at the Communion wafer, Catholics are being told they’re eating Jesus Christ,” Gaylor said. “They’re drinking his blood, and they’re eating his flesh, and that’s cannibalism. It’s a barbaric ritual, and maybe it’s time for people to speak out and say ‘Come on, a cracker is just a cracker.’ ”
 
When asked whether speaking out against the Eucharist was the place of a biologist at a state university, Gaylor said, “Yes. I do not see that he is name-calling. He’s not calling for violence, and he’s not going after Catholics. He’s just saying that he doesn’t buy that a communion wafer is holy.”
 
The University of Minnesota, meanwhile, is not likely to take any action.
 
In an interview with CNSNews.com, Daniel Wolter, director of the university’s news service, said that even though the link to Myers’ blog was, “a violation of university web policy,” the only action the university has taken is to remove the link from the university Web page. No disciplinary action is expected.
 
Jacqueline Johnson, chancellor of the Morris campus, said in a statement Friday that the university “affirms the freedom of a faculty member to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint.”
 
Cass said campus speech codes might not have been so tolerant of Myers’ academic freedom if his actions had been directed at non-religious people.
 
“What if he had taken a gay flag and burned it?” said Cass. Would “the administration be as accommodating?”  
 
Cass said inaction by the university “only confirms in our minds that the universities have declared war on Christianity.”
 
Catholic League President Bill Donohue added that the desecration of the Eucharist is as offensive to Catholics as the burning of crosses is to African-Americans – or the display of swastikas would be for Jews.