Phi Beta Cons

Crossing Back

William & Mary has reversed itself on the Wren Cross, sort of. Here’s a joint statement from the president and board:

THE WREN CHAPEL CROSS SHALL BE RETURNED FOR PERMANENT DISPLAY IN THE CHAPEL IN A GLASS CASE. THE CASE SHALL BE LOCATED IN A PROMINENT, READILY VISIBLE PLACE, ACCOMPANIED BY A PLAQUE EXPLAINING THE COLLEGE’S ANGLICAN ROOTS AND ITS HISTORIC CONNECTION TO BRUTON PARISH CHURCH. THE WREN SACRISTY SHALL BE AVAILABLE TO HOUSE SACRED OBJECTS OF ANY RELIGIOUS TRADITION FOR USE IN WORSHIP AND DEVOTION BY MEMBERS OF THE COLLEGE COMMUNITY.

It sounds like the cross will be treated as a museum piece, rather than a living symbol. Yet the pro-Wren Cross people also appear satisfied, judging from this graf in a story for Inside Higher Education:

Vince Haley, a William & Mary alumnus who organized the Save the Wren Cross movement, said via e-mail last night that he was “very grateful” for Tuesday’s news. “The religion committee deserves great credit for swift action and leadership. Its unanimous judgment to return the cross is an unambiguous repudiation of the destructive idea that William & Mary should ever tolerate any intolerance of religious symbols.”

The IHE story, by the way, is more comprehensive that the coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education–but its headline also betrays a sentiment in support of the college’s original, botched decision: “Caving on the Cross.” By my lights, the verb “to cave” carries a pejorative meaning. Why not “Restoring the Cross”? That phrase contains a message as well, of course, just a different one. The headline in the Chronicle plays it straight: “Controversial Cross Will Regain a Permanent Place in Chapel at William and Mary.”

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.