A yard sign at the Catholic center across the street from Emporia State was vandalized Monday, according to the chaplain there. The sign urged voters to approve an anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas constitution during the Aug. 2 primary election.
The word “No” was spray-painted on the large banner, which was in front of Didde Catholic Campus Center, 1415 Merchant St. A police report was filed with ESU Police & Safety, according to the chaplain and center director, Rev. Matt Nagle.
“They (Police & Safety) called me, they were the ones that saw it first,” Nagle said. “They called me early Tuesday morning… (we) checked the building to see if anything was broken, and reported the vandalized sign.”
Nagle said some camera footage was retrieved from church surveillance cameras and has been given to police.
Capt. Ray Mattas of the Emporia Police Department said Wednesday his department had not received any reports of stolen, broken or vandalized yard signs having to do with the amendment.
Because the Didde center is part of a church, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prohibits it from advocating for or against any candidate for public office, according to the IRS website. However, churches are allowed to advocate for or against ballot measures, such as the upcoming constitutional question on abortion.
A “yes” vote would restrict access to abortion in Kansas. Last month, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a federal right to abortion services for almost 50 years.
“This is an issue that we believe is a human rights issue,” Nagle said, “and we feel strongly that this amendment protects both the lives of the unborn and protects women from the abortion industry.”
Even though the center describes itself as the “Didde Catholic Campus Center at Emporia State University,” the facility has no affiliation to the school, Nagle said.
“We are located right across the street from the university and we serve the university population,” Nagle said. “...but it’s not like we are an arm of Emporia State.”
When The Bulletin first reached out for an interview with Didde Catholic Campus Center, the newspaper was directed to Debra Niesen, lead consultant for ProLife Ministries with the Archdiocese of Kansas City.
Niesen said in a phone call she was unaware of the situation at Didde and would “contact Father Matt,” before scheduling an interview. Moments later, Nagle called and agreed to a phone interview with The Bulletin.
“(The vandalism is) an attempt to intimidate people who support ‘Value Them Both,’” Nagle said. “And it’s not something that (will work) to keep us silent.”
Lt. Donald Shafer of Police & Safety confirmed the report is in progress as of Wednesday afternoon, but would not give any further information.
The center has replaced the vandalized sign with a new one.
A previous version of this misquoted a phrase Nagle used to explain there was no affiliation between the center and the university. The phrase has been corrected here.