Mixed-message vandalism confuses church

Jeremy Fugleberg

Jeremy Fugleberg

A campus church and sign decrying abortion were hit by vandalism in the early morning hours of Aug. 31.

Overlooking a forest of white crosses signifying South Dakota abortions, “NO IRAQ WAR” in black spray paint stretched across the tan brick wall of the Catholic Campus Parish’s Newman Center. The female symbol was painted across a sign accompanying the crosses.

Linda Lambert, the center’s office manager, discovered the crime when she showed up for work that morning. Paul Rutten, the parish’s priest, said he was shocked to discover the night’s destruction.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “How am I supposed to respond to the Iraq war on my wall?”

Rutten first called UPD, and waited for them to show up. After no response, he called the Brookings Police Department, which is currently handling the investigation.

The anti-war statement doesn’t make sense because the Catholic Church doesn’t support the war,” Rutten said.

Stephanie Chase, a political science senior, is a life-long member of the parish, but is a former president of the Campus Women’s Coalition and calls herself pro-choice.

She said the vandalism was probably a response to the cross display, set up by the anti-abortion group Brookings County Right to Life.

“It’s frustrating and further polarizing for those who go to the church, who might have views one way or the other,” she said. “I don’t think the person was necessarily thinking their actions through. It was a pretty poor political statement if you were trying to get your message across.”

Confusion seemed to rule the day with Rutten, Chase and others at the parish building unclear as to what the vandal was trying to get across.

Adam Smith, an animal science senior, said the vandal might have thought the crosses were similar to those in the Arlington National Cemetery, where many military dead are buried. But, he said, that’s just a guess.

“I think someone was trying to say something,” he said.

Lance Catron, a park management senior and member of the campus anti-abortion group Jacks for Life, said he was appalled when he saw the vandalism.

“It’s a place where I go to worship,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing, and it’s an illegal action.”

Catron said he supports an abortion ban, but can’t understand what the anti-war statement had to do with the cross display. For him, the big question is what happens next.

“Will this happen at any other churches, is the question,” he said.

The crosses display is moving from church to church every week. The display moved to Bethel Baptist Church Sept. 3.

#1.884395:3139314376.jpg:vandalism.jpg:Anti-war graffiti covers the Catholic Campus Parish’s south wall. The church was hit Aug. 31.: