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Saying that artist Andres Serrano's speech had offended "Christian sensitivities," campus Catholic leaders sent a letter on Friday to Graduate School of Fine Arts Dean Lee Copeland objecting to the event. Serrano, who spoke at the GSFA last week, is the creator of Piss Christ, a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine, and many other works using Christian symbols. The letter, signed by staff and student leaders of the Newman Center, questioned Copeland's judgement in allowing Serrano to be invited to campus. The offensive nature of Serrano's speech should have been considered as seriously as his right to freedom of expression as an artist, the letter added. Copeland and members of the committee that chose Serrano could not be reached for comment last night. Serrano, whose work has been a focal point of the debate over National Endowment for the Arts funding for controversial art, was invited by the GSFA Lecture Committee as part of a year-long series. Father James McGuire, director of the Newman Center, said last night that campus Catholics should have been consulted on Serrano's invitation. "My problem is with the content of the art and knowing that it is considered very offensive to Catholics and Christians," he said. "A process of selection should be put in place so that a mistake of this kind could not occur, and all religions on campus could be respected." McGuire added that the failure to consider Christian sensibilities was in conflict with the University's statements about diversity. "Are we really serious about diversity, or is it just when it suits us, or when the issue is properly framed politically?" he said. The letter also charged that the GSFA would have been more cautious about offending a non-Christian minority than it was about offending Catholics. "Just because we're not in the minority does not give us a right to be overlooked in terms of this kind of thing being acceptable," Newman Center President Laura Strub, a Wharton senior, said last night. Campus Minister Bob Cardie, who signed the letter, compared inviting Serrano to inviting a Nazi, saying that both were offensive and neither had any positive contribution to make to society. He also said the Newman Center should have been consulted about the speech. "Someone can be prejudiced and not know it, and someone can be a racist and not know it," he said. "How do you know unless you ask someone who takes their religion seriously?"

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