White House asked Georgetown University to remove a religious symbol for the name of Jesus where President Obama was to speak-Truth!& Disputed!

Summary of eRumor:

A forwarded email that says that the White House asked Georgetown University to cover a monogram symbolizing the name of Jesus that was inscribed on a pediment on the stage behind where President Obama spoke.

The Truth:

The monogram “IHS,” which symbolizes the name of Jesus Christ, was covered along with all other symbols on the platform during the president’s speech. There is not evidence, however, that the intent was to eliminate religious or Christian symbols.

The inscription is on a pediment on the stage in Gaston Hall where the speech was given. The White House had asked the school to remove or cover all signs and symbols that would appear behind the President while he delivered his speech on the economy, according to an  April 15, 2009 CNS News article.

David Brody of CBN said he was told by the White House that the intent, however, was not to cover the religious symbols in particular or to leave Christ out of the picture. It was to drape the platform in a simple black background with American Flags on display. Brody said there were 26 other religious symbols in Gaston Hall that were not covered and that were visible in some pictures taken at the speech. The White House told Brody, “The President appreciated the gracious hosts at Georgetown University where he delivered his speech on the state of the economy. Decisions made about the backdrop for the speech were made to have a consistent background of American flags, which is standard for many presidential events. Any suggestions to the contrary are simply false.”

Georgetown Associate Vice President Julie Green Bataille told CNS news, “The White House wanted a simple backdrop of flags and pipe and drape for the speech, consistent with what they’ve done for other policy speeches. Frankly, the pipe and drape wasn’t high enough by itself to fully cover the IHS and cross above the GU seal and it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context.”

The source of this email came from Citizenlink.org, a web site constructed by Focus On The Family.

Click for Citizenlink site.

Gaston Hall showing the “IHS” symbol for the name of Jesus with cross above  (photo: Georgetown University Online Library)

The monogram and cross above were covered by a plain black painted plywood board.   The article said that the Roman Catholic traditional use of “IHS” as a symbol for the name of Jesus dates back to when “St. Ignatius of Loyola adopted the monogram in his seal as general of the Society of Jesus (1541) and thus became the emblem of his institute.”

updated 04/17/09

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Georgetown University Covers Jesus Symbol for Obama Speech

At the request of the White House and ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama, Georgetown University — which is Catholic — covered a monogram symbolizing the name of Jesus.

Gary Bauer, chairman of American Values and a Georgetown Law School alumnus, said he took offense to both the White House request and the compliance of Georgetown in covering the symbol on the stage.

“Whatever the motivation of the White House was,” he said, “the officials at Georgetown certainly should have said, ‘If you want to come here to speak, the evidence of our faith will remain visible.’ ”

Kathryn Lopez, editor of National Review Online, also expressed disgust.

“It really was an outrage,” she said, “and it suggests an identity crisis at Georgetown University.”