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Feb 28, 2014 08:28 AM EST

Purdue Alumnus Plans to Sue Alma Mater over Alteration to Plaque Message


A Purdue University alumnus approached lawyers after the school altered the message he suggested for a plaque honoring his parents.

In return to the pledge of $12,500 to the university's School of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Michael McCracken and his wife were given an opportunity to name a small conference room in Herrick Labs. The couple were also asked to provide a message for the plaque to be installed in the room.

McCracken chose to name the room after his father, Dr. William McCracken, a Purdue Ph.D. graduate in mechanical engineering, and his mother Glenda, who passed away recently.

The original message on the plaque read, "To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God's physical laws and innovation of practical solutions," Fox News reports.

According to McCracken's attorneys, Purdue rejected the message as it was deemed 'impermissible government endorsement of religion.' Without informing the family of the alumni donor, the university officials installed the plate with a different message that only mentioned McCracken's parents.

Jeremiah Dys, a Liberty Institute attorney representing the McCrackens, said the university is violating his clients' First Amendment rights. Dys argued that while the university was willing to take his donation, they were not permitting him to express his sentiments.

"... the first amendment protects the right of McCracken to reference God's physical laws on a plaque at Purdue University. Purdue invited McCracken to supply language of his choice in recognition of his and his wife's generous pledge to their Alma mater," Dys said in a press release.

In their defence, the university officials said that the word 'God' might upset someone and cause an infringement of the Establishment Clause.

McCracken said that he and his wife carefully worded the message for the plaque.

"My wife and I were simply trying to honor the legacy of my parents - the things they instilled in me - one being a love of education, the other being a passion for solving problems and (the) third being a desire to understand the physics that God put into motion," McCracken said.

Dys said that they have repeatedly asked the university officials to reinstall the original message, but they have declined to do so. The couple were also willing to provide an alternative message that would make it clear that the inscription was written by them and not the university.

Robert Kelner, another attorney representing the McCrackens, found the University's behavior ironic as they defended the rights of a private speaker to curse Jesus in a public space in 2001.

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