Liberty Institute: Purdue University Rejects Donor’s Reference to “God’s physical laws” on Plaque Honoring Parents’ Legacy

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Feb. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Attorneys for a
Purdue University alumnus, Dr. Michael McCracken, sent a letter to Purdue after
the university rejected the language he had proposed for a plaque honoring his
parents, in conjunction with a gift to the university. According to the letter,
Purdue rejected Dr. McCracken’s proposed language for the plaque because it
included a reference to “God’s physical laws.”

“The First Amendment protects Dr. McCracken’s right to refer to ‘God’s physical
laws,’ ” said Dr. McCracken’s attorney, Robert K. Kelner of Covington & Burling
LLP. “Purdue asked Dr. McCracken to supply language of his choice in recognition
of his and his wife’s generous pledge to their alma mater. He chose language
that honors the values instilled by his parents – Ed, also a Purdue alumnus, and
Glenda, who recently passed away.”

The letter sent Wednesday by attorneys from Covington & Burling LLP and Liberty
Institute explains that Purdue rejected Dr. McCracken’s choice of language after
he and his wife made a $12,500 pledge to the university’s School of Mechanical
Engineering. When asked by the university to supply the language for a plaque to
dedicate a small conference room, Dr. McCracken chose an inscription that would
honor the legacy of his parents: “To those who seek to better the world through
the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions.”
Purdue rejected that language because of its concern that the plaque “more
likely than not” would be deemed a government endorsement of religion, opting
instead to permit a plaque mentioning Dr. McCracken’s parents without any use of
the word “God.”

“Purdue’s ban on any reference to God by a private speaker violates the First
Amendment of the United States Constitution,” said Jeremiah Dys, Senior Counsel
to Liberty Institute. “Dr. McCracken’s plaque language is private speech that is
protected by the First Amendment. Purdue allows dozens of other private speakers
to express their values and views on plaques around campus; it cannot legally
single out Dr. McCracken for discrimination.”

The letter sent Wednesday, which can be read in its entirety here:, asks Purdue University to
restore the original language of Dr. McCracken’s plaque by ­­­­­March 5. If
Purdue University does nothing, according to the demand letter, Dr. McCracken
has authorized his legal team to preserve his First Amendment freedoms.

Liberty Institute is a national nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and
restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches,
inside our military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to
reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our Founding
Fathers. For information, visit

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SOURCE Liberty Institute

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