WEST LAFAYETTE – A couple who donated $12,500 to Purdue University might sue unless the school allows an inscription for their dedication plaque that includes a reference to God, their attorney said.
Purdue graduates Michael and Cynthia McCracken were asked what wording they wanted for a conference room plaque after they made the donation to the School of Mechanical Engineering in 2012, said the couple’s lawyer, Robert Kelner.
They proposed an inscription – dedicated to Michael McCracken’s parents – that would say, To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions. In honor of Dr. William Ed’ and Glenda McCracken.
Purdue officials say the dedication was rejected because its use of the word God could be considered a government endorsement of religion since it is a public institution.
Kelner said the First Amendment allows the proposed wording as private speech, and the McCrackens might sue if the dispute isn’t resolved.
Purdue asked Dr. McCracken to supply language of his choice in recognition of his and his wife’s generous pledge to their alma mater, Kelner said. He chose language that honors the values instilled by his parents – Ed, also a Purdue alumnus, and Glenda, who recently passed away.
The McCrackens are supported in the dispute by the Liberty Institute, a conservative advocacy group in Plano, Texas.
Steve Schultz, Purdue’s legal counsel, said school officials understand the McCrackens’ disappointment, but they worried about expensive litigation if the inscription was allowed.
If we had confidence that the courts would find this private speech as the donors’ counsel argues, then we would agree immediately – and strongly, Schultz said.
Kelner said university officials haven’t responded to alternative wording that the McCrackens suggested after the proposed inscription was first turned down in October.
We have offered to the university to make whatever changes they want us to make to make it blindingly clear to any reader that this is speech by the McCrackens and not the university, Kelner said.