Photo: Erich Kirckubel
Purdue University has reversed a decision about whether to allow a plaque recognizing an alumni donation to contain a reference to God.
Purdue alumnus Michael McCracken had claimed the university violated his First Amendment rights when it rejected his suggested wording for the plaque, which will hang in a conference room at the school‘s Herrick Laboratories.
McCracken and his wife had donated $12,500 to Purdue and says the university asked him for an inscription for the plaque. His suggestion was:
“To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God‘s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions. In honor of Dr. William “Ed” and Glenda McCracken.”
The people mentioned are a reference to Michael McCracken‘s parents.
Purdue attorney Steven Schultz issued a statement last week saying court precedent might find that the reference to God at a public university violated the First Amendment‘s ban on government establishment of religion.
But McCracken claimed the plaque‘s wording was his private speech and that Purdue could not restrict it while allowing other private speech on plaque‘s elsewhere on campus.
He and the Liberty Institute, a group that highlights what it believes are violations of religious rights across the U.S., sent a letter to Purdue suggesting legal action would be taken unless a resolution were reached by Wednesday.
In the end, Purdue decided to accept a slightly different wording for the plaque offered by McCracken, he says to make it clear that the words are his and not those of the university.
The plaque will now read:
“To all those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions. Dr. Michael and Mrs. Cindy McCracken present this plaque in honor of Dr. William “Ed” and Glenda McCracken and all those similarly inspired to make the world a better place.”