WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – A Purdue University alumnus is getting a lawyer after the university removed the word “God” from a plaque honoring his parents.
Dr. Michael McCracken and his wife made a pledge of $12,500 to Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering.
As part of the pledge, McCracken was asked to provide an inscription for a plaque to dedicate a small conference room in Herrick Labs.
The plaque was originally supposed to say,”To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions.”
According to McCracken’s attorneys, Purdue rejected that wording because of its concern that the plaque “more likely than not” would be deemed a government endorsement of religion.
Purdue posted a plaque with different wording, mentioning McCracken’s parents without any use of the word “God.”
Jeremiah Dys, one of the attorneys representing McCracken, said the university is violating McCracken’s First Amendment rights.
“Clearly the first amendment protects the right of McCracken to reference God’s physical laws on a plaque at Purdue University. Purdue invited McCracken to supply language of his choice in recognition of his and his wife’s generous pledge to their Alma mater. The problem is they’re willing to take Dr. McCracken’s donation, however they’re not allowing him to give the speech that he wants to give,” said Dys.
Purdue’s legal counsel Steve Schultz released this statement:
“We have a great deal of understanding and sympathy for the disappointment of the McCracken family. If we had confidence that the courts would find this private speech as the donor’s counsel argues, then we would agree immediately – and strongly. But given the facts here, our status as a public institution, and the hopelessly muddled state of jurisprudence in this particular area, we could fully expect lengthy and expensive litigation that would wipe out the value of this donation many times over, and we just don’t think that’s advisable for either the donor or the university. Still, we remain open to continued discussions, as we’d much prefer to be in the mode of expressing gratitude, not disagreement, to our donors.”
After Purdue’s statement was issued, Dys released this statement.
“Dr. McCracken was very disappointed by the statement released today from the General Counsel of Purdue, his alma mater. The University is essentially giving voices that would ban even private references to “God” a heckler’s veto here. In so many words, the statement suggests that Dr. McCracken’s pledge was not large enough to justify the hassle of defending his speech in court. But, of course, it is precisely the University’s decision to violate Dr. McCracken’s First Amendment rights that would lead to potentially lengthy and expensive litigation. We continue to wait for the University to make a satisfactory proposal to resolve this matter short of litigation.”
McCracken was not available for an interview.