Like most schools, Princeton University has a strict code of conduct that demands respect for all members of the campus community. The code is rigidly enforced—except, that is, when it comes to one group: Christians. Bigotry against Christians, and particularly Catholics, is the last acceptable prejudice.
And that bigotry is on graphic display at Princeton’s Bernstein Gallery, housed in the Woodrow Wilson School. Hanging on the walls is a collection called "Ricanstructions" by New York artist Juan Sanchez. To call this art offensive would be a spectacular understatement.
One piece depicts a torn image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Another features naked female torsos arranged in the shape of a cross. A third links together sacred Catholic devotional items under the title "Shackles of the AIDS Virus."
After viewing the works, Catholic students protested to Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Wilson School. They explained why the art was so offensive—and asked her to remove it. After all, the art desecrates actual sacred objects like the cross. To their surprise, Slaughter acknowledged that she would probably not allow the school to sponsor art that desecrated, say, Muslim symbols. But instead of removing "Ricanstructions," Slaughter held a forum to let all sides—including the artist—have their say in the matter.
Princeton student Matt O’Brien responded that Catholics are not suggesting that their beliefs ought to be free from criticism; they only want Catholic symbols to enjoy the same protection from abuse that all other campus groups expect.
Slaughter’s response? She was sorry the art had caused "pain" to Catholic students. Nonetheless, she said, she was committed to exhibiting art that had "educational value." "Ricanstructions" was going to stay right where it was.
The exhibit has "educational value," all right: It’s teaching students that tolerance and respect are worthy goals—except when it comes to Catholics or other Christians.
The art pieces in "Ricanstructions" represent those who hold to the Catholic faith as murderers—the ones responsible for deaths from AIDS. As Princeton Professor of Politics Robert George explains, "Like the ancient canard about Jews using the blood of Gentile children in the Passover meal, it is an outrageous allegation that people of the slandered faith, acting on the principles of the faith, are responsible for killing people."
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