- (Photo: www.ci.steubenville.oh.us)
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), based in Wisconsin, has claimed a victory in its case against the city of Steubenville in eastern Ohio after officials agreed to drop religious symbols from the community's official logo.
The Steubenville logo, which had been designed by local businessman Mark Nelson in 2011, featured the cross from Franciscan University's Christ the King Chapel and historic landmarks like Fort Steuben and the Veterans' Memorial Bridge.
"Steubenville is a theocracy and is a Christian city where non-Christians or nonbelievers are not favored citizens," FFRF's chief spokesman, Annie Laurie Gaylor, had said of the logo. She insisted that "the city may not depict the university chapel and cross because to do so places the city's imprimatur behind Christianity."
Back in May, FFRF sent a letter to Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci, arguing that the religious symbols on the logo violated the separation of church and state, and warned that the logo needed to be changed immediately, the New American reported.
"The city of Steubenville must not endorse 'faith' and church. While we understand that Franciscan University is part of the City, the City may not depict the University chapel and cross because to do so places the City's imprimatur behind Christianity. This excludes non-Christians and violates the Constitution," the letter stated.
This apparently startled the city, as officials gave way to the organization's demands without much of a fight.
"We will be approaching Mark Nelson of Nelson Fine Art and Gifts and asking him to redesign the city logo to remove the cross and silhouette of the Christ the King Chapel on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus," said, Gary Repella, the city's law director.
Nelson has agreed to redesign the logo, but had admitted to being confused about why the FFRF had such strong objections against Steubenville's logo when many other cities have historic Christian-associated landmarks in their logos that have not been challenged
"We already prepared a new logo without the cross," Nelson said, "but I don't know why the Wisconsin organization objected to the silhouette of the Christ the King chapel. The Los Angeles county board of supervisors retained the Mission San Gabriel in its seal. The chapel is part of the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus."
He added that "what bothers me is this organization has used its interpretation of separation of church and state, that is not included in the Constitution, to bully the city into changing its logo. My family and I are proud to be here in Steubenville and to be part of the community. We are also proud to have a business in Steubenville."
Franciscan University has also said that it strongly disagrees with the push to redesign the logo.
"We find it particularly troubling that an out-of-town and out-of-touch group targeted the university for removal from the logo solely because of our religious identity," said Michael Hernon, the university's vice president of advancement. "For more than 65 years, Franciscan University of Steubenville has proudly served as an integral part of this community, and we were honored to have our chapel included in the new city of Steubenville logo."