EUGENE — More than 100 people came to New Hope Christian College here to protect its 51-foot cross against a threatened removal that never materialized.
As reported locally by the Register-Guard newspaper and nationally by CBN News, protesters had announced on social media their intent to gather at the college, 2155 Bailey Hill Road, on Friday evening, July 31, to call for removal of the cross by the school. They claimed it symbolized past racist events in the city.
But college President Wayne Cordeiro said the cross has nothing to do with racism and instead symbolizes Christianity and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He said that while the cross came in 1997 from Skinner Butte, where racist activities took place in the 1920s, it was not connected to them.
Historically, in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan burned crosses on Skinner Butte. But the cross now at the college was built in 1964 on the butte and in 1970, Eugene residents voted to make it a war memorial. It later was moved to the campus because a federal court ruled it could not be on public property, and what was then Eugene Bible College offered to give it a new home.
Cordeiro noted the cross is on private property and to destroy it would be a hate crime under state law. He added that New Hope is a multiracial campus, with staff from around the world, so any allegation the college is racist makes no sense.
A Facebook post called for declaration of a “war on racism’ identifing all racist monuments, their location, how they were established and their purpose.
Local “patriot” groups provided a security response after emails and Facebook alerts claimed Antifa planned to tear down the cross. The road leading up to campus was blocked and several men, some with weapons, stood guard at the entrance. Eugene police also said they had a plan in case of any trouble.
Cordeiro said the campus community surrounded the cross and prayed for its protection during two hours of worship and praise, with God’s presence evident.
No attack on the cross, nor even a protest against it, ever came.
Tim Ravan of the evangelistic outreach Global Connectors came to the campus to lend prayer support. He told CBN that hundreds of people gathered there that weekend or drove by honking their horns to extend thanks to the school and those defending the cross. He noted that even some non-believers in Christ expressed their appreciation.
In a statement, the college said, “It is our hope that what has recently led all of us to look closely at the history of the cross at New Hope, could draw our community together and continue honest conversations that further promote unity within our city.”