Images Stir Up Catholic Anger

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard

A campus controversy over anti-Christian cartoons published in The Insurgent student newspaper at the University of Oregon has spilled over to include the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

In a letter sent Wednesday to state legislators, higher education officials and Catholic leaders in Oregon, league President William Donohue describes the March issue of The Insurgent as "flagrantly anti-Catholic" and one of "the most egregious examples of hate speech targeted at Christians." The league sent copies of two of the newspaper's offending drawings along with its letter.

Student editors at The Insurgent said they decided to publish the cartoons after the uproar over earlier cartoons first published by a Danish newspaper that took aim at Islam and its prophet, Muhammad. Those cartoons stirred an international debate over freedom of speech and respecting the religious views of others.

"We simply wanted to discuss our apparently controversial views on religion, and also poke fun at how we feel religion can be sexually repressed," said Jessica Brown, an Insurgent editor and UO junior studying biology and sociology.

The Insurgent is not a university publication nor university supported, but it does receive student incidental fees - $18,349 for this school year.

The March issue was stirring campus debate even before the Catholic League weighed in. A UO student filed a grievance over the publication with the student body government, which last week ruled in the newspaper's favor.

Until last month, the newspaper was being mailed to subscribers using the university's nonprofit bulk mailing permit. UO officials said student groups are not entitled to use the permit and that the Insurgent's past use was a mistake.

As a result, about 720 copies of last month's issue have not yet been mailed. Most copies of each issue are made available for free at newsstands scattered across campus. Several thousand copies of the paper are printed for each issue.

The controversy is not the first in Eugene to capture the attention of the Catholic League, described as the country's largest Catholic civil rights group. The organization in 1995 took exception when "the Rickies" were awarded a $200 cash prize for its entry in that year's Eugene Celebration parade. …