Chapel Policies Show Diversity

February 20, 2007

Author: Carlos Santos and Rex Bowman

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch!news&s=1045855934842

CHARLOTTESVILLE The University of Virginia chapel has a removable cross on its altar. Virginia Tech's chapel has only sculptures of God interacting with man. Virginia Military Institute's chapel and the chapel at the University of Virginia's College at Wise are devoid of religious symbols.

A look at chapels at Virginia's public colleges, prompted by the recent controversy at the College of William and Mary over the placement of a chapel cross, shows that religious worship on campus is handled in diverse ways that have changed over the years.

W&M's Wren Chapel, opened in 1732, was once the scene of mandatory morning and evening daily prayer. About 250 years later, the Wise chapel was built for all faiths for voluntary worship by any group.

W&M President Gene R. Nichol ignited the chapel debate in October when he ordered the 2-foot-high bronze cross removed and returned for display only during appropriate religious services or events. The cross had been at the chapel since around 1940.

Nichol's rationale was that the constant presence of the cross -- the ultimate symbol of Christianity -- would make some students, faculty and staff at the school feel unwelcome in the chapel.