Catholic University Student Government Votes to Remove Painting Depicting George Floyd as Jesus Christ

McMahon Hall at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., September 1, 2019. (The Catholic University of America/Wikimedia Commons)

After a report surfaced that the Catholic University of America’s Columbus Law School and campus ministry office had displayed a painting depicting George Floyd as Jesus Christ, triggering widespread campus backlash, a student government resolution to remove the art passed Monday.

Discontented students spearheaded multiple petitions, garnering nearly 20,000 signatures in total, to have the painting taken down over what they perceived to be an insult to their faith.

“As students at The Catholic University of America, we believe that it is extremely grave that our university, the official university of the Catholic Church in North America, would cast another in the image of our Lord in this way, particularly for political purposes,” one petition said, which collected over 5,000 signatures as of eight a.m. Tuesday. On Monday, the student Senate at CUA voted 15-9 to remove the painting.

In the wake of the episode, first reported by the Daily Signal, the president of the university, John Garvey mildly criticized the press coverage of the development in a statement, which to some students failed to address the reason for their outrage and was a departure from CUA’s conservative values.

“Many see the male figure as George Floyd, but our Law School has always seen the figure as Jesus,” it read. “Some critics called the image blasphemous because they saw it as deifying or canonizing George Floyd. Some comments that we received were thoughtful and reasonable. Some were offensive and racist. Much of the criticism came from people unconnected to the University.”

In his statement, Garvey confirmed that the picture display was not a protest portrayal or an isolated incident by a single activist but rather “the painting was put in place last February in a ceremony,” he said. He reiterated his policy that he would “not cancel speakers or prevent speech by members of the community.” Abiding by that rule, he said he declined requests to take down the painting, extending toleration to it as he did the school’s hosting pro-life advocate Abby Johnson last spring.

He noted that on November 23, however, the picture was stolen from its location outside the law school’s Mary Mirror of Justice chapel.

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