ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Student and religious leaders have condemned a magazine ad placed by the College of St. Thomas that tries to illustrate the importance of a liberal arts education by depicting a Nazi rally.

The Catholic school's 30-member All College Council voted Sunday to send a letter to the college's public affairs department asking that the ads be pulled, said John Nelson, the council's student president.

The full-page ad contains a photo of Nazis at a rally, their right arms outstretched in a salute to Adolf Hitler.

''All those in favor of eliminating higher education, raise your hand,'' the headline says.

''I can see the point they're trying to get at,'' Nelson said. ''But it's too easy to flip through a magazine and see just the swastika and the St. Thomas logo. It's catchy, but do we want people to say, 'St. Thomas - Oh yeah. That's the place with the Nazi ad.'''

''You have to read the text carefully to see what it's about,'' said Rose Condon, coordinator of the Peace and Justice Organization at the college. ''It almost comes across as a fear tactic. It's confusing. ... People look at it and just sort of shake their heads.''

The director of the new Center for Jewish-Christian Studies, Rabbi Max Shapiro, called it ''an unfortunate ad.''

''It's a striking ad,'' he said. ''It conveys a message. But the medium, the way it was done is rather insensitive.''

University spokeswoman Diane Disse said the public affairs department, which placed the ad, expected a strong reaction.

''We're sensitive to the fact that some people may be offended,'' Disse said. ''But in advertising now, images must be strong to capture the reader.''

Nelson said the ads appeared last week in Twin Cities Magazine and Mpls.- St. Paul Magazine and were scheduled to appear this month in Corporate Report and Minnesota Business Journal.

University officials decided before the campaign began not to repeat the ads or run them in other publications, said James Winterer, director of the school's news bureau.

The ad, designed for free by the Carmichael-Lynch advertising agency, states that St. Thomas believes in educating young adults to be ''enlightened citizens.'' Prominent German Catholics, the ad says, left their country during World War II and took up residence at St. Thomas, which has about 4,300 undergraduates and 2,400 graduate students.

''This firm commitment to freedom of expression and a liberal arts, career- oriented education has made St. Thomas the state's largest independent college,'' the advertisement said. ''Yet the institution has never wavered from one of its original courses. To help students think for themselves. So that as citizens they are able to decide for themselves.''