A group of Christian students at Louisiana State University who make it a tradition before football games to paint their bodies in school colors along with small crosses on their chests received an apology Monday from college officials who digitally erased the crosses from a photo. However, a statement from LSU suggests that any photo having a religious or political symbol will no longer be considered for any of its communications having to do with promoting the college.
Prior to the apology, LSU stood firm in its decision to send the photo minus the crosses in an e-mail about the LSU vs. South Carolina game on Oct. 13. The featured group of LSU students is known as "The Painted Posse."
"LSU Athletics attempts not to imply any particular religious or political message in any of its correspondence with fans," Herb Vincent, who is the Vice Chancellor for Communications, told CampusReform.org last week. "Thus the crosses were edited out of the photos."
The Christian student group was shocked to see the photo which appeared to be otherwise untouched, according to news reports. In an interview done for local TV, members said they were not angry with the college, but would simply continue to wear their painted colors and their crosses to home games.
"I was a bit surprised, because our pictures get used so frequently, and the cross had never been edited before," said Posse member Cameron Cooke in an interview with Campus Reform.
"The cross painting is important to me because it represents who I am as a Christ follower and it reminds me who I need to act like in Death Valley," said Cooke.
LSU's Tiger Stadium is also known as "Death Valley" because of it being one of the most difficult places for visiting teams to play. The stadium is nationally known for having among the best game day atmospheres in college football.
The story of LSU's "photoshop" removal of the crosses received national media attention over this past weekend and by Monday an apology by the university was issued.
"LSU sent out a promotional message on October 15 to its sports fans asking for feedback on their experience at the LSU-South Carolina game on October 13. In messages to sports fans we attempt to convey no religious or political messaging," LSU officials stated in a Facebook post. "We did not intend to offend anyone by the editing of this photograph and in the future we will use another photo rather than make a similar edit. We erred in our judgment and we have communicated our apologies to the group of young men represented in the photo whose school spirit is second to none."
However, by late afternoon on Monday, more than 700 comments had been posted under LSU's Facebook apology statement, many of them not accepting of the apology.
"Having a policy of not taking photos of exceptional Tiger fans who happen to identify religiously does make them second class citizens," commented Thomas Tobias D'Anna, a former LSU student. "You discriminate according to religious identification from the beginning. While religious identification is not the only form of diversity, it's a pretty big one. From the outset, you choose to be less diverse than any university that doesn't have a similar policy. And it's the kind of policy that will keep LSU from being able to recruit Tim Tebow types from any religious background. The proper response to this was just an apology…"