Update: UVA Paper Apologizes, Pulls Offensive Comics

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:23pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - After more than a week of pressure from Christian advocacy groups, the student newspaper at the University of Virginia apologized Friday for cartoons it published mocking Christian beliefs. It also removed the cartoons from its website.

"We are regretful that many took offense to them," an announcement posted on the website of The Cavalier Daily said, referring to two cartoons it printed Aug. 23 and 24.

One of the cartoons showed Jesus crucified on a mathematical graph. The other implied that Jesus' mother, the Virgin Mary, contracted a venereal disease from the Immaculate Conception.

"Offense was not our intent - neither the intent of the artist, nor the intent of the newspaper," the editors wrote, "which seeks to provide contributors an open forum to present their ideas."

The offending cartoons have been replaced with a note from the cartoonist, Grant Woolard.

"The sole intent of my comic strip is to present situations that provoke thought and amusement," Woolard wrote. "As this comic did not achieve that goal, I have requested that it be taken down from the Cavalier Daily website."

The website still displays other cartoons that mock Jesus, including one that shows him calling a woman a "b****."

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the newspaper and its editor-in-chief, Michael Slaven, came under fire from religious groups over the cartoons but repeatedly refused to apologize.

The groups were especially upset that the paper had apologized for two offensive cartoons in the past. The first, in November 2005, offended homosexuals by referring to the crane as the "gayest-looking of all birds." Again in February 2006, the paper apologized for cartoon that mocked Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed.

Slaven had repeatedly refused to apologize or retract the comics, even after the newspaper reported having received thousands of e-mails and phone calls from Christians who had been offended.

Slaven cited a censorship policy created in April 2006 that allows the newspaper's cartoonists to make fun of groups of people for "their own opinions or action" but not for "traits or situations they cannot change." He did not refer to the policy in the apology Friday.

Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, which led the campaign demanding an apology, said in a statement Friday that "now that The Daily Cavalier [sic] regrets publishing the offensive fare, and has pulled them from its website, they have effectively closed this issue."

Donahue added that the Catholic League is "pleased with this outcome."

In a message recorded for callers to the newspaper's main telephone number Friday, Slaven declined all requests for comment on sudden reversal: "Members of The Cavalier Daily staff will not be doing interviews or making press appearances from this point forward."

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