- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

WILLIAMSBURG (AP) — A nationally known conservative author is challenging College of William & Mary President Gene R. Nichol to a debate over his decision to remove a cross from a campus chapel.

Dinesh D’Souza said last week he hopes to debate Mr. Nichol at a campus forum Feb. 1, to be sponsored in part by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The institute typically arranges debates between conservative and liberal speakers at campuses around the country.

Mr. Nichol was out of the country last week.

Mr. D’Souza has written several books, including “Letters to a Young Conservative” and “What’s So Great About America.”

He is among a growing number of conservatives who have taken an interest in the debate over the removal of the 2-foot-high, century-old bronze cross from the Wren Building chapel altar, where it had been displayed since the 1930s.

The cross was placed in a church storage room in October to make the chapel more inviting to people of diverse faiths. At the time, Mr. Nichol said displaying the Christian cross “sends an unmistakable message that the chapel belongs more fully to some of us than to others.”

The change infuriated some, triggering a petition signed by 7,700 people who wanted to see the cross permanently returned.

Last month, Mr. Nichol responded to criticism by bringing the cross back to the altar on Sundays. It can be returned to the altar at any other time by request.

A permanent plaque to commemorate the historic chapel’s Anglican origins also was planned.

William & Mary’s Board of Visitors has stood by Mr. Nichol’s decision.

Debate organizers say the forum may be canceled if Mr. Nichol doesn’t participate.

The chapel is sometimes used for secular meetings, including annual schoolwide events for freshmen and seniors.

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