WH: No Religious Cover-up at Georgetown

ABC News' Karen Travers reports:

The White House is taking some heat today from conservative and Catholic bloggers who noticed that while President Obama delivered remarks on the economy at Georgetown University yesterday , a monogram that is a symbol for the name Jesus was covered up behind him.

CNSNews.com , a conservative web site affiliated with the Media Research Center, reported that the gold “IHS” monogram inscribed in Georgetown’s Gaston Hall was covered by a piece of black-painted plywood.

The White House denied that there was any effort to specifically cover up religious imagery or symbols and noted that on the wall directly behind the president there are two religious paintings and there is other imagery throughout the hall.

"Decisions made about the backdrop for the speech were made to have a consistent background of American flags, which is standard for many presidential events. Any suggestions to the contrary are simply false,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye told ABC News.

Georgetown officials said that the White House requested the backdrop and asked that all signs and symbols behind the stage be covered up.

“In coordinating the logistical arrangements for the event, Georgetown honored the White House staff's request to cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols behind the Gaston Hall stage in order to accommodate a backdrop of American flags, consistent with other policy speeches,” said Julie Green Bataille, associate vice president for communications at Georgetown.

Georgetown officials did not respond to the question of whether there were similar requests for past presidential speeches.

This is the second controversy to flare up in the last month with the Obama White House and a Catholic university.

The University of Notre Dame’s invitation to Obama to deliver the commencement address next month has sparked outrage among alumni and Catholics nationwide. They take issue with Notre Dame bestowing an honorary degree on the president because they say his views on abortion and stem cell research are contrary to church teaching. The local bishop in South Bend, IN has said he will boycott the ceremony if Obama speaks. So far, officials from Notre Dame say there is no plan to rescind the invitation to the president.

-- Karen Travers

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