Fort Hays State University has transformed Ash Wednesday into a vibrant celebration of gay pride. Ash Wednesday traditionally serves as a solemn occasion for fasting and prayer, signifying the beginning of Lent. Both Catholics and Protestants often bear a cross-shaped mark of ash on their foreheads, symbolizing our mortality.

However, at Fort Hays, a unique twist has been introduced. Students are now encouraged to combine the ashes with glitter. This taxpayer-funded institution in Kansas has taken the initiative to paint students’ faces with a blend of biodegradable, purple glitter and traditional ashes. The event received sponsorship from the United Methodist Church campus ministry.

The educational institution asserts that glitter holds an inseparable significance within the context of queer history, and when combined with ash, it symbolizes a queer representation of Christian faith. The organization supporting the occasion justified the act of disrespecting the Catholic ritual.

“There is a tradition of exclusion, and we don’t feel it really reflects what Jesus was about,” Cheryl Duffy, Us4U adviser, told the Hays Post. “Jesus was about love and inclusion, and we want to open up that tradition to everyone. Ash Wednesday is a meaningful, inflective day. We want everyone to be able to experience that.”

The sacrilegious ceremony prompted the university to release a statement, emphasizing its disassociation from the event:

“The “Glitter + Ash” event scheduled for today (February 14) on campus is sponsored by Us4U and the United Methodist Campus Ministry. Both are recognized Student Organizations at Fort Hays State University, and both followed established protocols for creating, announcing, and holding this event. As with any Student Organization-led event, email communications about this event included an FHSU-branded header graphic. The inclusion of the university brand mark in the header is not intended to serve as an affirmed or implied endorsement of the beliefs and views held or expressed by any Student Organization. In the interest of ensuring that the First Amendment right of every individual is respected, FHSU remains viewpoint-neutral on this and other Student Organization-led events. We are in the process of updating our student organization event announcement procedures to clarify that these are announcements from the Student Organizations, not the university, and the content of the emails and the events themselves may not reflect the opinions/beliefs of the university or university leadership. The Kansas Board of Regents and Fort Hays State University are committed to the free expression of ideas and beliefs, and we are united in our commitment to full and open inquiry and discourse and the robust exchange of ideas and perspectives. The principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression are fundamental rights guaranteed under the U.S. and Kansas Constitutions.”