Christians Decry College 'Compromise' on Chapel Cross

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - In a move aimed to appease Christians who were offended by the removal of a cross from the campus chapel, College of William and Mary President Gene Nichol on Wednesday announced a "compromise" that acknowledges the chapel's Christian roots - but keeps the cross stored most times.

The move seems to have backfired, as a group of Christians who want the cross returned called Nichol's decision "insufficient."

In October, the college president announced the cross would be removed from its permanent position in the Wren Chapel in order to make the building more inclusive of other religions that use the building for services and events.

The move angered Christians, who viewed it as an attempt to silence Christianity.

In a statement Wednesday, Nichol announced what he called a "compromise." Under the new policy, the school would commission a plaque to be hung in the chapel commemorating its Anglican roots, he said. The cross would also be displayed all day on Sundays.

But it will remain in storage at other times during the week unless the group using the building asks for it to be displayed.

Mathew D. Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, praised the move in a press release, calling it "a step in the right direction. The plaque commemorating the religious heritage of the school is a welcome addition to serve as a memorial to the religious history of the College of William and Mary."

But other Christians, including some William and Mary alumni, criticized the decision.

Stephen Klugewicz, a 1989 graduate who is now the executive director of the conservative Collegiate Network, said the compromise "is no comprise at all. The historic plaque is no substitute for the cross."

In a statement released by a group calling itself Save the Wren Cross, Klugewicz said the plaque "merely implies that the chapel's Christian identity is part of its past, not its present."

Save the Wren Cross said it has collected more than 7,300 signatures on a petition asking Nichol to revert to the old policy, which allowed the cross to be displayed at all times.

The group vowed to "continue its efforts to have the original decision reversed and continue to facilitate a dialogue about defending and honoring William and Mary's history (especially the Wren Cross)."

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