ST. CLOUD (AP) -- A St. Cloud State vice president apologized after a student political group claimed he violated their First Amendment rights by demanding the removal of an Israeli flag.
Nathan Church, vice president for student life and development, said Monday in a letter to the College Republicans that he simply requested they remove the flag on display at Atwood Memorial Center.
The flag, which was part of a pro-Israel booth, incited heated debate and a scuffle between a professor and a student. After fielding complaints, Church said he asked the group to remove the flag.
The group, which said it was displaying the flag to show support for Israel's right to defend itself, claimed Church was using his position to order them to remove the flag.
"I have come to appreciate your feelings that my request was experienced by you, and others at your display, more like a directive than a request," Church wrote in his letter to the group. "I, and the University, want to assure you that we vigorously support your rights to freedom of expression."
In a news release, the group said it accepted Church's apology.
"The College Republicans accept this apology with the exception that the University will never again infringe on the right of any student organization to present its ideas in a peaceful manner," the news release said.
The display featured literature prepared and paid for by Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, the flag, and a list of terrorism victims in Israel.
A professor thought some of the display was anti-Semitic, a sensitive charge at St. Cloud State. The university recently settled a class-action lawsuit alleging anti-Semitism for more than $1.25 million.
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