The protest centered on a sculpture titled, “Holier Than Thou” by Colorado artist Jerry Boyle which was placed outside Washburn’s student union in October. It depicts the bust of a bishop with a fat, cruel and ugly face. His miter resembles a phallic symbol.
Catholics in the area immediately called and wrote President Jerry Farley demanding the sculpture’s urgent removal. The issue was brought before the Board of Regents who voted to keep the sculpture on campus.
As a result, local TFP supporters and America Needs Fatima members started to organize a protest. Sunday, December 7th was selected for a very good reason. That Sunday was the date of Washburn’s Christmas Vespers concert. The protest sought to point out the irony of singing praises to the Infant Jesus at one location on campus, while at the same time blaspheming Him by mocking and ridiculing His Church at another campus location.
Mr. Robert Ritchie, director of America Needs Fatima, agreed to contact members throughout the area. Parishes in the Kansas City and Wichita dioceses also were contacted. A number of parishes announced the protest from the pulpit and others placed it in their parish bulletins. The Wichita diocesan newspaper even had an article about the protest and gave a meeting place for those wishing to travel together to attend.
A little over one week before the protest, a representative met with the special assistant to President Farley to inform him of the protest and ask for a venue on campus where the protest could be held. He observed that Washburn had been insulting the Catholic Church day-in and day-out with the sculpture and Catholics only asked for an afternoon to defend Her honor. That request was most unfairly denied.
On the day of the protest, those arriving early noticed a water main leak right at the location on the public sidewalk. A city crew arrived and informed the protesters that they might have to move. However, upon speaking with the crew chief, he agreed to postpone digging until after the protest.
Protesters soon began arriving from nearby small towns and several major cities: St. Louis, Wichita, Kansas City and of course Topeka. The crowd of over 110 people gathered holding over 40 signs, two eight foot banners and a small TFP standard. At the center of the crowd was a litter covered with flowers holding a statue of Our Lady of Fatima high so that the defenders of Holy Mother Church could receive comfort and strength from her maternal presence.
A group of counter-protesters also arrived on the scene. These were members of a local protestant church who were blatantly anti-Catholic. Their horrendously disgusting signs heaped insults upon Our Lady and the Catholic Church. This group is well known and unpopular in Topeka for picketing events with very vulgar anti-homosexual signs.
The Catholic position on homosexual rights is well known, but any protest should be done in a dignified manner, not in a crass and vulgar form that assaults the innocence of children. The only real difference between their signs and the sculpture on campus was the technical skill of the artist. The message was the same.
When protesters chanted “Jesus, Mary, make these people go away!” the counter-protesters soon left the scene.
Media coverage of the event was extensive as both the ABC and NBC affiliates carried the story. The Topeka Captial- Journal also interviewed several people from the crowd.
Around 3 p.m., after praying a full rosary, the rally ended with participants full of zeal and enthusiasm for the privilege of defending the Faith in such a public manner.