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Vandals desecrate crosses in college pro-life display for the second time in four years

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CLARION, PA, April 15, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – For the second time in four years, vandals have desecrated crosses erected by pro-life students at a Pennsylvania university to commemorate the lives lost to abortion.

The Clarion University chapter of Students for Life erected a Cemetery of the Innocents on Sunday night. Each of the 350 crosses represented 10 babies who are aborted every day in the United States.

But when they awoke Monday morning, the scene was much different.

Some of the crosses were broken into pieces. Others had messages scrawled on them, asking pro-life students, “Would you support if this life was gay?” and “Would you support if this life were trans[gender]?”

But the vast majority had been uprooted and thrown into a nearby trash can.

“This was a reprehensible act of discrimination against Students for Life. It was an attack on our freedom of speech,” said senior Todd Garrett, Vice President of Clarion Students for Life.

Garrett said that, in the wake of the vandalism, the university's administration had been surprisingly supportive. “I ask that as a community of educators and students, we come together and reflect upon our commitment to our rights and responsibilities of expression,” said Karen Whitney, president of Clarion University. She instead asked students to “use dialogue and discussion to engage very differing viewpoints in ways that leave all of us better for the experience.”

Her call was amplified by national pro-life leaders. “Instead of dialogue, abortion supporters have once again taken to bullying to silence those with whom they disagree,” said Kristan Hawkins, the national president of Students for Life of America (SFLA).

Despite attempts to paint pro-lifers as vicious homophobic hatemongers, Hawkins said that “if the vandals had sought this dialogue with Clarion Students for Life, they would have learned that pro-life students support the right of every human person to be a person, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Clarion University administration must take swift and immediate action to find the vandals and use appropriate disciplinary measures.”

After the news of the cross trashings made national news, a female student reportedly admitted that she perpetrated the vandalism – sort of.

Garrett has since reported that a second-semester freshman told the Director for the Center of Leadership and Involvement and the Director of Judicial and Mediation Services that she had thrown away the crosses – but only because she did not think they had been set up by a campus group.

“She stated that the crosses had been written on before she was there,” Garrett said.

He added the woman claimed that “she placed them into trash cans, because she thought that she was doing the maintenance people a favor.”

Garrett, a senior, remembered, “This is the second time since 2011 that our crosses have been desecrated.”

Four years ago, during Holy Week, vandals turned the group's annual Cemetery of the Innocents into a sacrilegious display by inverting the crosses, dripping red paint upon them to resemble blood, and painting bloody infant “footprints” near the project.

“This incident sadly represents the intolerant attitude on college campuses today towards minority viewpoints expressed there. Rather than set up a counter exhibit to promote abortion, the 'pro-choice' activists choose instead to suppress and mock the pro-life display,” wrote Jordan Lorence, senior vice president and senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, after the 2011 incident. “It is tragic that these students have failed to learn this important truth at a university campus that is supposedly a marketplace of ideas.”

Campus leftists have increasingly come to view property destruction as a new form of “free speech.” The Clarion incident follows the similar desecration of a pro-life display at Western Kentucky University. In April 2012, pro-life students placed 3,700 crosses at an approved site, but WKU art instructor Kristina Arnold gave student Elaina Smith permission to deface the crosses – placing condoms over each one – as an “art project.”

The same month, students at Northern Kentucky University saw their display of baby clothes marked with an “X” thrown to the ground. One of the students involved told local media, “Tearing it down was expressing our right to free speech.”

Clarion Students for Life will determine whether to pursue the most recent desecration with Clarion's Judicial Conduct Board.

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This week's vandalism led to the pro-life organization forging an alliance with some unusual supporters: members of a campus feminist group. “We did have support from the Clarion V-Day Project,” a group dedicated to fighting violence against women, which was founded by feminist playwright Eve Ensler. Her best-known work, The Vagina Monologues, presents a 24-year-old lesbian’s molestation of a 13-year-old girl as a prepubescent “salvation” that “raised her into a kind of heaven.”

“A few of their [V-Day] members helped SFL put the crosses back up when we did it at noon,” Garrett wrote. “I think after some discussions that SFL and V-Day have had, we will be able to foster a new collaborative relationship.”

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