When all hell breaks loose on Facebook surrounding an issue of religion, you better watch out. Incidents that appear to smack of religious persecution or censorship ignite passionate fans on both sides. Lousiana State Unversity (Baton Rouge) found that out recently when an altered picture showed up on their Facebook fan page.
The photo was a close-up of four students from the Painted Posse, a Christian student fan group, who wear painted crosses on their shoulders and appear in full body paint to support the LSU football team. Below are screen shots of the before and after pictures.
Original Picture (crosses circled)
The university promptly apologized to the group, but that wasn't the piece of this PR debacle that caught my eye. It was the classy response of the student group asking people to forgive the university for their mistake and move on. Here is a portion of their statement on the LSU Facebook fan page (over 715,000 fans).
"In light of the recent airbrushing of our crosses by LSU staff members and the discussion that has followed, the Painted Posse - a group of Christian LSU students - would like to thank the public for the outpouring of support both for the group and for Christ.
"Please allow us to clear up some confusion and make certain that our ideals and intentions are not misconstrued by individuals, members of the media, or the university that we love. The University has reached out to our group and apologized for this incident. The following statement should be considered the last such communication from any Posse member regarding the 'cross airbrushing' incident. Collectively, we thank you for your understanding.
'We, the members of the Painted Posse, do not agree with the University's recent decision to airbrush crosses out of the photo of some of our members. We also respect the opinions of those who do not agree with us...Let's unite all Tiger supporters as we prepare for the biggest game of the year. May we, as the LSU family, support our Tigers with all the fervor of the South Carolina game and much more! Bring. On. Bama."
If you follow the ebb and flow of crises in the media, you know this isn't the typical response that religious groups and their supporters give after they've been wronged. Kudos and thumbs up to the members of the Painted Posse for understanding how to diffuse a crisis and keep the attention on their cause. Also, thumbs up for extending a hand of mercy and forgiveness to the university. Shame on Lousiana State University for committing such a thoughtless, ill-advised action. Their excuse is pretty lame, stating they didn't want to appear to promote a religious message in the photo. The crosses on the shoulders of the fans are so small, I doubt anyone would have ever noticed.
It doesn't happen very often, but when a group that's been wronged stands up and extends an olive branch, life goes on. Let that be a lesson to us all. The Painted Posse just saved LSU from a nasty PR crisis that could have dragged on for weeks.
Would you have extended forgiveness to the university and moved on?