A depiction of Jesus Christ on the western side of the handball courts at the EPCC Valle Verde campus renewed the debate of separation of church and state months ago when there was an effort to remove the
That changed when EPCC President Dr. William Serrata decided to keep the religious painting on the mural.
“I of all people would not ever want to censor our students,” Serrata said. “My decision was that once it’s up, it’s up.”
The mural has different representations of all EPCC clubs and Jesus represents College for Christ (CFC), an officially recognized club at the institution.
“I feel incredible, we all decided that we are going to celebrate sometime,” said Sara, CFC president, who requested that her last name is not mentioned.
Cesar Inostroza is the artist commissioned for $6,000 to finish painting the mural when he submits a final draft.
“He’s going to bring a rendering and once I see that then he can move forward and finish the project,” said Gonzalez-Hensgen, EPCC vice president of student services.
Inostroza was hired by Arvis C. Jones, director of student leadership and campus life.
Before Serrata’s decision to keep Jesus on the mural, it had a conflict with college policy.
“We are public funded, we are on public property, it’s tuition money that is used to pay, so the college has to be viewed as religious neutral,” Gonzalez-Hensgen said.
The CFC club put out a petition and collected 467 signatures and talked to lawyers to keep the image.
“We were being discriminated against and we didn’t feel that it was fair that they were basically telling us that we can’t have anything for our club because we couldn’t put anything religious,” Sara said. “They say that they don’t discriminate against religion and they were discriminating against out club.
The problem came from letting the artist paint something in advance of knowing what it would be, said Serrata.
“Once the mural was up, I don’t believe that it’s in the best interest of the college to change the mural, those things should’ve been handled prior to the mural going up,” Serrata said.
Serrata thinks that freedom of speech has its boundaries, but wants students to voice their opinions.
“Obviously, there are limits to freedom of speech, like hate speech, things of that nature, things that we don’t condone,” Serrata said. “We want to engage our student in a conversation; we want to engage our students in ensuring that they have a robust experience in higher education, and that means being able to discuss any and all issues that come up.
“We are an institution of higher learning, and we are a nation of ideas and innovation, and therefore, our students should be allowed to have those kinds of murals go up.”