There’s a battle brewing at Western Kentucky University between a pro-life group, an art professor and at least one student. Hilltopper’s For Life, a student-led anti-abortion group, is claiming that pupils desecrated and vandalized a pro-life display by putting hundreds of condoms on top of some of the crosses that comprised it.
The display, which had been approved by the university, is now the center of intense debate. A member of Hilltoppers apparently caught Elaina Smith, the offending student, as she and another individual were putting the condoms on top of many of the exhibition’s 3,700 crosses. According to sources within the pro-life group, the student claimed that her actions were part of an art project for her class. When Smith refused to stop desecrating the display, campus police were called.
Here’s where the situation gets interesting. Authorities refused to stop Smith and allegedly said that her actions were permitted by the First Amendment. Even more bizarre is the response that came from art Professor Kristina Arnold. In a statement that was released, she did anything but take a stand against Smith and her actions.
“Learning and debating are not always pretty or polite processes. Critical engagement with ideas can get messy,” she wrote. “If we are asked to introduce our students to all the tools of debate and engagement, they will use these tools. The use and discovery of tools, and the use and discovery of voice is exactly what is occurring on our campus, on both sides of this current discussion.”
Smith, too, is doubling down and defending herself. In an e-mail message that was sent to the pro-life group Students for Life earlier this week, Smith apparently defended her actions:
During the week of April 16th, the Hilltoppers for Life’s pro-life display remained un-interrupted. The student body tolerated this intrusion without major incident. The voice of the pro-life community was heard. On the last day of this event, I attempted to add to the visual dialogue with my own voice and was met with strong resistance. I take this subject very seriously, and had hoped to remind people of the effectiveness of condoms and other forms of contraception in preventing unwanted pregnancies. I do not ask that everyone agree with my point of view or the way in which I tried to express it. However, I stand by my actions. I do not believe that I impeded anyone else’s freedom of expression. I did not break any laws. I did not damage any property. I voluntarily removed the condoms even though I was not required to do so. At the time, I thought that the matter had ended there. I do not feel that I should apologize for attempting to exercise the freedoms that we all are entitled to.
In the letter, Smith is clear about the fact that she doesn’t believe an apology is warranted. Yet, Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell released a contradictory statement this week claiming that an apology had been issued by the student (i.e. Smith).
“No member of our University family should impede another member of our family’s freedom of speech or creative effort, especially when it comes to exercising religious freedoms,” Ransdell’s statement read. “The offending student has apologized. This matter has been dealt with properly, decisively, and brought to a conclusion.”
But according to the e-mail that allegedly came from Smith, she feels no need to apologize. Naturally, Hilltopper’s For Life is flabbergasted that the situation has unfolded as such. With the professor purportedly defending Smith and with the university seemingly attempting to put a stop to the rhetoric surrounding the situation, the group is standing up for its rights. Starnes has more:
The Hilltoppers For Life are now represented by the Alliance Defense Fund. They’ve sent a letter to the university demanding answers and an official apology.
“It appears that several WKU officials knew this vandalism would occur, did nothing to stop it, and allowed it to continue,” wrote attorney Travis Barham. “Our clients were exercising their First Amendment rights, and it is the duty of WKU officials to protect those freedoms, not passively allow them to be violated.”
The Alliance Defense Fund sent a list of eight demands to the university. In addition to a public apology, they also want to know who purchased and supplied Smith with 3,700 condoms. They also want assurances that the student will be punished for her act of vandalism.
With the school claiming that the situation has been put to rest, but will Hilltoppers still pushing for resolution, it’s likely further discussion will be taking place in the coming days.
(H/T: Fox News)