The ‘Right’ Not to Be Offended, Part 3,590,328
March 7, 2006
The U.S. Supreme Court ended a two-year legal battle on Monday, when it declined to hear an appeal of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a sculpture at Washburn University that some considered anti-Catholic.A bronze bust of a sneering, corpulent Roman Catholic clergyman wearing a bishop’s hat, or miter, that many said resembled a penis infuriated Catholic groups when it was displayed as part of the Kansas university’s temporary outdoor art exhibit during the 2003-4 academic year. At the base of the sculpture, called “Holier Than Thou,” the artist included a statement saying that, at age 7, he was “scared to death” at encountering this face in a dark confessional booth.Roman Catholics protested the sculpture’s display. Initially, the archbishop of Kansas City, Kan., asked the university to remove it. Washburn, a public institution, declined to do so.Then a professor and a student sued. Thomas O’Connor, a biology professor who has since retired, and Andrew Strobl, who was a student at the time, accused Washburn of violating their rights under the establishment clause of the First Amendment by exhibiting a statue hostile to Roman Catholicism.