Allegedly Blasphemous Poster at College Leads to "Hostile Environment" Arguments, Asserted Worry About Effect on Children;

another poster leads to a possible death threat. From the Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio):

Jesus Christ had a homosexual relationship?

Those words, written on a poster above the image of a topless man tenderly kissing Jesus on the neck, angered dozens of students Thursday night at Lorain County Community College....

The sign went up about 4 p.m. in College Center student commons as part of Club Awareness Week, along with many other displays advertising student-run extracurricular organizations....

Questioning religion is fine, but mocking it isn't, [one student] said.

[Senior Amanda] Lucero said the LCCC student handbook agrees, and pointed out a part of the school code that says, "Harassing any person(s) verbally, in writing, by graphic illustration, or physically, including any abuse, defamatory comments, signs or signals intended to mock or ridicule race, religion, age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin" is not allowed....

Sophomore Dejoune Grantham said the poster is libelous and blasphemous, and in her opinion it isn't protected by the First Amendment.

"I don't want my children walking through here and seeing that. It's filthy," she said.

Another sophomore, Amber Cales, said the poster was in a public place, and it was easily seen by anyone who passed. She said that took away her right as a parent to shield her children from controversial ideas....

A student named Zach Jefferson, who Weaver said is not a member of the atheist group, decided about 7:30 p.m. to take down the poster, but he wouldn't say why.

Laura Nash, president of the Student Senate, said she wasn't surprised at the outrage so many students voiced.

She said anyone offended should write a complaint and submit it to the Campus Life Division or campus security....

To the school's credit, Marcia Ballinger, LCCC's vice president is apparently defending the right to post such material: "In higher education, we certainly respect all viewpoints. There is debate, and there are different perspectives.... Controversy on a college campus from students is something that is inherent to free speech." Moreover, "Campus security guards said offended undergrads voiced complaints for about three straight hours, but the sign remained up because it didn't present a security issue...." Nonetheless, to the school's discredit, the policy does appear to ban "signs ... intended to mock or ridicule race, religion, age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin" — pretty clearly an unconstitutional restriction on speech at a public college or university. (See also this closely related policy.)

The poster was put up by the local Activists for Atheism club, who apparently don't take the view that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The club officers' claim is that the poster "wasn't intended to mock religion" but "was meant to stir debate about Christianity by referencing a passage of the Bible that was allegedly cut out by early Christians [--] ... the Secret Gospel of Mark, which was found inscribed in a letter by Greek historian Clement of Alexandria," and which some have read as suggesting a homosexual relationship between Jesus and a man whom he had raised from the dead.

Atheist club president Aaron Weaver also "put up a picture of the prophet Mohammed," and reports that he then "received a death threat in response to the picture, which read, 'With love and missiles.'" (No more details are given, so it's hard to tell whether the picture was just a picture of Mohammed or something pejorative, and it's hard to tell how threatening the letter was.) "He took the picture down, turned over the note to campus security officers and went home."

Thanks to the Religion Clause blog for the pointer.