Christian-Themed Cartoons Draw Ire

By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006

Two cartoons that ran in a University of Virginia student newspaper recently have sparked thousands of e-mails to the school and the paper with complaints that they are offensive and blasphemous.

Third-year student Grant Woolard drew the comics for the Cavalier Daily, one of which is called "Christ on a Cartesian Coordinate Plane," with a drawing of the X and Y axes over his figure on the cross. The other, "A Nativity Ob-scene," is of Joseph and the Virgin Mary talking about a bumpy rash she has, with her saying, "I swear, it was immaculately transmitted!"

Members of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights -- among others -- were not amused.

Form e-mails from members across the country have pelted the U-Va. president's office and the Cavalier Daily.

Carol Wood, a U-Va. spokeswoman, said they have gotten between 2,000 and 2,500 letters and about 50 phone calls, primarily from people outside the university. She said the school's response has been that while the writers' concerns are understood, the Cavalier Daily is an independent newspaper and the school must uphold freedoms of speech, expression and the press.

Woolard did not return messages yesterday afternoon.

The editor in chief, Michael Slaven, referred to an editorial earlier this week that read, in part, ". . . we regret being thrust into the culture war in this way. . . . Just because a comic appears in our pages does not mean that the editors agree with the point or even find it in good taste. It only means that the comic fails to meet specific criteria that warrant censorship. "

Kevin Simowitz, chairman of Catholic Student Ministries at U-Va., said: "If they were putting out a comic that was challenging and intriguing and funny and cutting edge, that's one thing. When it's tasteless and not useful, and doesn't spark debate, and just offends . . . they deserve all the flak they get."

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