A Carnegie Mellon University student who dressed up as the pope and was naked from the waist down -- with her pubic hair shaved in the shape of the cross while handing out condoms -- is no longer facing criminal charges of indecent exposure.
Katherine O’Connor, 19, was dressed up as the naked pontiff at an on-campus art school parade earlier this year. Campus police filed charges against O’Connor and fellow student, Robb S. Godshaw, 22, who allegedly portrayed a naked astronaut at the same parade, CBS Pittsburgh reports.
"While I recognize that many found the students' activities deeply offensive, the university upholds their right to create works of art and express their ideas," President Jared L. Cohon said after charges were filed. "But, public nudity is a violation of the law and subject to appropriate action."
On Monday, the charges were dropped against O’Connor in exchange for community service, CBS Pittsburgh reports. Godshaw is still facing charges. Neither have commented on the incident.
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The parade, which took place on April 18, is the College of Fine Arts’ “Annual Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby." Campus police responded to complaints of a naked woman on campus. The incidents made headlines after Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik publicly demanded the school take action.
“I think we all know that when we’re growing up we do stupid things but to cross over the line in this instance shouldn’t happen with anybody,” Zubik told CBS Pittsburgh. The National Catholic League called for O’Connor’s immediate suspension citing how CMU recently suspended fraternity members for taking sexual pictures and emailing them.
Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said O’Connor could have used the First Amendment as a legal defense for her actions.
“One of the things that are troubling about this is the calls for punishment because she offended the leader of a religious group,” Walczak told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Free speech means nobody is above criticism, from the president to the pope.”