The White House had a monogram that symbolizes the name of Jesus hidden from the backdrop of a speech President Obama gave at Georgetown University Tuesday.
The letters IHS are an ancient monogram for the name of Jesus Christ, according to the online Catholic Encyclopedia. They stand on a wooden archway above the dais where Obama gave his speech.
The White House requested that all university signs and symbols behind the stage be concealed, said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the Jesuit-founded school in Washington, D.C.
"The White House wanted a simple backdrop of flags and pipe and drape for the speech, consistent with what they've done for other policy speeches," Bataille told The Washington Times.
"Frankly, the pipe and drape wasn't high enough by itself to fully cover the IHS and cross above the GU seal, and it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context."
The Catholic University of America, also in Washington, might have handled the situation differently. "I can’t imagine, as the bishops’ university and the national university of the Catholic Church, that we would ever cover up our religious art or signage for any reason,” Catholic University spokesman Victor Nakas told The Times,
“Our Catholic faith is integral to our identity as an institution of higher education,” he said.
But the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at Georgetown, advanced a more relaxed approach.
“It is more for camera quality than anything else," he told The Times. "They don't want distractions that would make the eye wander. I don't think this is motivated by theology, but by communications strategy."
Obama drew some criticism from the left when he chose conservative Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
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