TOPEKA, Kan. — A legal battle has ended over Washburn University's display of a sculpture that offended some Roman Catholics, who said it had a phallic appearance.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined yesterday to consider a legal challenge to the display filed by a faculty member and student at the municipal university.
The Court's refusal lets stand a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said Washburn did not violate the plaintiffs' rights by endorsing what amounted to an anti-Catholic message.
The lawsuit outlasted the display. The sculpture, titled "Holier Than Thou," was placed on campus in September 2003 as part of a larger outdoor display of art that ended in July 2004.
The work, by sculptor Jerry Boyle, of Longmont, Colo., portrays a jowly clergyman wearing a ceremonial cap known as a miter, which some viewers said resembled a penis.
Biology professor Thomas O'Connor and student Andrew Strobl sued the university, arguing it was infringing upon their right to freely practice their religion.
But in July 2005, the 10th Circuit said in O'Connor v. Washburn University that in the context of art, any reasonable observer would understand the school did not endorse an anti-Catholic message, regardless of whether the statue actually sent that message.