Sarah K. Cron

CBN News - A William & Mary College alum is fighting to restore a two-foot tall gold cross to the college's Wren Chapel where it had been on display for more than 75 years.

Vince Haley, a 1988 graduate, is seeking to overturn a policy decision by college President Gene R. Nichol that required the cross be taken down in an effort to be less faith specific. The cross was removed in October from its place behind the chapel altar and locked in a nearby closet.

In October, an e-mail to Wren Chapel employees explaining the cross removal said, "in order to make the Wren Chapel less of a faith-specific space, and to make it more welcoming to students, faculty, staff and visitors of all faiths, the cross has been removed from the altar area."
President Nichol later confirmed the cross removal order in an e-mail message to all students.

"Let me be clear. I have not banished the cross from the Wren Chapel," Nichol states in the e-mail. "...But the Chapel is also used frequently for College events that are secular in nature - and should be open to students and staff of all beliefs."

Haley, who is now research director for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at the American Enterprise Institute, and several current college students have established a website called, as part of their effort to restore the historic college symbol. As of Tuesday, an online petition asking Nichol to reconsider his decision had 1,200 signatures.

Students also introduced legislation last week to the Student Assembly Senate that would have restored the previous policy that allowed the cross to stay on display unless its removal was requested, according to The Virginia Informer, an independent student paper.

In addition to others who sided against the bill, Victor Sulkowski, a student senator who graduates in 2007, argued that tax and tuition funds would be unfairly used if it were to support an overtly Christian chapel.

Vice President for Student Affairs Sam Sadler said the cross was a "barrier" to people of other faiths, The Virginia Informer reported.

The proposal was rejected by a 14-4 vote, with two abstentions.

But Haley believes that such logic can be used to remove other faith-specific references and symbols from long-standing college traditions, such as the college's alma mater song which calls on "God, our Father."

The College of William & Mary has maintainted an informal relationship with the historic Buton Parish Church in Williamsburg since the American Revolution. After being renovated, the parish gave its altar cross to the college's Wren Chapel for permanent display.