EUGENE—Anti-Christian cartoons in a University of Oregon student newspaper, The Insurgent, has riled students, local Catholic organizations and now involves national cable TV commentator Bill O'Reilly.
Many say the cartoons in the March issue overstep the First Amendment, and they want U of O President Dave Frohnmayer to step in.
The conservative O'Reilly says Frohnmayer is a coward who should be fired and that the issue is one of hate, not free speech.
On Thursday Frohnmayer noted that he denounced the cartoonswhenthey appeared and generally opposes student publications he sees as offensive.
But he said U.S. Supreme Court rulings say funding for such publications cannot becontent-based.The Insurgent receives fees paid by all students, but no tax dollars.
Frohnmayerdismissed O'Reilly's comments, saying, "Being called names by him is like being called ugly by a frog." He added that O'Reilly is an entertainer, not a serious journalist.
Last month the New York-based Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights sent angry letters to state legislators, higher education officials and Catholic leaders in Oregon.
Frohnmayer said e-mails objecting to the publication number in the hundreds, most sent at Catholic urging.
One cartoon depicted Jesus on the cross with an erection. Another depicted a sexually aroused Jesus kissing another man. The issue also included essays critical of Christianity and Catholicism.
Editors at The Insurgent said they decided to publish the cartoons after an earlier uproar over cartoons in a Danish newspaper that took aim at Islam. Those cartoons caused rioting and deaths in some Muslim parts of the world.
O'Reilly'scomments came after student leaders rejected a grievance against the newspaper by 91 students.
Coordinated by Catholic students who attend the nearby St. Thomas More Newman Center campus ministry, the students accused the newspaper of publishing material that was "discriminatory, knowingly false, slanderous and egregious."
The students contended the paper violated policies relating to discrimination, fabrication of information and separation of church and state.
— The Associated Press