SLU Students vandalize pro-life display for the third time in two days, still no response from University

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Multiple students at Saint Louis University were caught vandalizing a pro-life memorial honoring aborted children on the Catholic University’s campus Tuesday morning. This was the third instance in two days of students vandalizing the display.

The memorial, named Cemetery of the Innocent, featured numerous red flags planted in the ground in the shape of a cross in remembrance of aborted children. There were 1,000 flags included in the display with each flag representing over 862 abortions performed last year. Cemetery of the Innocent happens annually and is organized by SLU Students For Life and approved by the University.

Tuesday morning, two girls were seen stomping on the flags and ripping them out of the ground. When the girls noticed Students For Life member Nick Baker videoing, they began harassing him and hurled insults and curse words in his direction.

A follow up video showed a peaceful bystander trying to resolve the situation, saying “I would just ask that you please respect their free speech.” The girls stomped on top of the flags once again on their way to walking away and yelling continued obscenities at the bystander.

SLU Students for Life President Isabelle Hotard told The Heartlander that this was the most recent destruction of the display, but not the first. The Cemetery of the Innocent display was first put up Monday morning with two signs depicting what each flag represented and showing the total number of abortions performed in 2020. Within two hours, both signs were stolen. 

On Monday evening, the student organization decided to take down the display overnight to avoid further vandalism and planned to plant the flags again on Tuesday morning. As Hotard approached the display preparing to take it down, she witnessed five girls stomping on top of the flags and ripping them out of the ground. 

Students For Life expected this type of reaction and prepared plenty of extra flags to replace the damaged flags from both vandalism incidents. However, the student organization expected this type of reaction only because students in past years have vandalized the Cemetery of the Innocent memorial and never received disciplinary action. Students For Life has resulted in assigning their own members to keep watch over the memorial because they feel it’s the only option of preventing further incidents. 

According to Hotard, Saint Louis University has a history of publicly defending liberal-leaning student protests and organizations, but never for conservative or Christian organizations – a shocking track record for a self-described Catholic University. 

“Some people support us within the administration, but it’s always very private,” Hotard said. “There’s never a statement put out like there was for things like the Black Lives Matter protest last year. There was somebody who vandalized that last year and that was wrong. They addressed that and condemned it, but when something like this happens to us, it’s just silence at this point.” 

Last year, a display on SLU’s campus calling for justice for Breonna Taylor was vandalized with permanent marker. The University released a lengthy statement addressing the incident and immediately called for a full investigation into the matter. The investigation was widely considered the right thing to do, but many are wondering why the same attention hasn’t been given to Students For Life’s Cemetery of the Innocent. 

The one-sided disciplinary theme by the University doesn’t surprise Hotard, but it is bothersome, she said.

“There are many of us who are very frustrated with that,” she said. “But it’s not really a surprise because our campus is so openly politically left-leaning with its messages.”

SLU Alumni and Students For Life Regional Coordinator Lucy Gonzalez agreed that the vandalism nor the lack of action by the University isn’t surprising and said it happened every single year during her time at SLU. 

“I think parents should really be aware before they send their kids to a Catholic university that pro-abortion stances on campus can really be strong like it is at SLU,” Gonzalez said. “I really think we need to be holding these Christian universities, these Catholic universities, accountable to their own pro-life values that they claim they have in their mission statements.” 

SLU’s mission statement reads in part, “As a Catholic, Jesuit university, this pursuit is motivated by the inspirational values of the Judeo-Christian tradition and is guided by the spiritual and intellectual ideals of the Society of Jesus.” 

Abortion is condemned as a grave moral sin by the Catholic Church, so many are wondering if SLU actually is an acting Catholic university, or is just labeled as such with their own agenda.

“SLU being a Catholic school in general should mean that they are doing their best to uphold the dignity of the unborn and to be pro-life,” Gonzalez said. “So, the fact that they haven’t done something immediately, is concerning to me but again, not surprising.”

St. Louis colleges have had repeated instances of conservative or Christian displays being vandalized recently. On the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a WashU Student Senator was caught stealing almost 3,000 American flags that were planted in the ground in remembrance of those who lost their lives that day.

In Saint Louis University’s student handbook, it states that “All members of the SLU community are accountable for their actions in maintaining an environment of open and civil exchanges of ideas.” It also states that students are subject to discipline under the University’s Code of Community Standards if they do not comply with maintaining civil exchanges as the girls refused to do. 

Saint Louis University did not respond to The Heartlander’s request for comment. 

As criticism and backlash continue to mount up against the incidents of vandalism, the Catholic University should expect more calls of action to discipline the students and to take steps to prevent another occurrence like this in the future.

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