Controversial debate over God and man
By Alex Chiang
In a battle between tradition and political correctness, the former won a temporary victory last Thursday after the Board of Governors at Brandon University in Manitoba withdrew a motion to alter the school's coat of arms.
Lee Clark, secretary to the school's Board of Governors, said controversy over the use of the word 'mankind' was initially raised by a Brandon alumni who claimed its use in the coat of arms was sexist. Upon further scrutiny, the Board also reconsidered the use of the word 'God' in the emblem's description as a possible source of exclusion of other religions.
"It had been brought to our attention that the language was not as gender neutral as it could have been," Clark said. "We also thought that the reference to God excluded some religious groups."
The motion to drop the two words was shelved by the Board due to widespread public reaction against the change from a variety of sources including alumni, staff and students. "The public reaction focused to a large degree in that it ignored the heritage of the university," Clark said.
The Brandon coat of arms represents the three-fold nature of man spiritual, mental and physical, crowned with the blessing of everlasting life. The wheatsheaf represents the material blessings from God.
Professors at Brandon University, which was originally founded as a Baptist College, believe it is better to remain true to the origin of the school in its coat of arms. "In its origins, [Brandon] was a religious institution and the coat of arms reflects it. You don't try to rewrite your history," said Edward Milton, a professor of religion.
Milton said he would be more in favour of changing the word 'God' to 'The Creator' as opposed to excluding the name altogether, which he claimed would be an intrusion of political correctness on religion.
Roger Gardiner, an expert in the history of Western's coat of arms and a D.B. Weldon librarian, said although Western was also founded as a religious institution, its emblem was altered and secularized in 1908 when it was recognized as a public university.