Media Turn Blind Eye to College's Cross-Spurning Intolerance

In last week's State of the College address to students, alumni and faculty – but almost no major media – College of William and Mary (CWM) President Gene R. Nichol defended his hotly disputed decision to remove the Christian cross from the altar at historic Wren Chapel.

The Wren Cross controversy exemplifies the nation's growing conflict between religious freedom and so-called “diversity.” Red-hot conservative author Dinesh D'Souza is coming to campus to debate the issue on February 1. But the media have virtually ignored the story.

A Nexis search turned up 87 articles in four months about Nichol's decision to remove the cross.  Of those, only four could be considered “big media”: one article in The Washington Post and three articles in The Washington Times. ABC's Web site posted an AP article that briefly mentioned the story. 

William and Mary, located in Williamsburg, Virginia, is the nation's second-oldest university.  The school was founded by Anglicans but has been state-supported since 1906.  President Nichol decided in October 2006 to remove the two-foot brass cross, a gift from Williamsburg's historic Bruton Parish Church that had stood in Wren Chapel for more than 60 years, and allow it to be displayed only upon request. 

His reason? Nichols told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the cross “sends an unmistakable message that the chapel belongs more fully to some of us than to others.” In an explanation to the campus community, he cited stories about prospective students leaving the campus in turmoil after seeing the cross displayed in the chapel.

Did Nichol pause to take into account the thousands of CWM students and alumni who would surely be offended by the removal of an historic Christian symbol from a Christian-erected chapel simply because it is Christian?  He took this action even though a policy was already in place that allowed the cross to be removed from the chapel for special events for other faiths.


Only FOX News, The Washington Times and local Virginia newspapers have adequately covered this colossal bow to political correctness.

FOX hosted Vince Haley, founder of, on its November 30 Hannity and Colmes show.  Haley, a 1988 alumnus of William and Mary, created the Web site and circulated an online petition to organize opposition to Nichol's decision.  By the time Haley appeared on Hannity and Colmes, more than 5,000 people had joined his effort.  [The number has since doubled.]  Hannity and Colmes also gave an update on their December 21 show when Nichol announced his “compromise,” which allows the cross to be displayed all day on Sundays only.

It's a classic church-state struggle, and eminently newsworthy. Unless, that is, you're a mainstream media journalist who thinks it's no big deal to strip-mine America of its religious heritage. 

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute.