Edmond, Oklahoma Officials Try to Break Wall of Separation for the Third Time

Pop quiz.

Who is depicted in the following statue?

If you said Jesus, you win!

Even the artist, Rosalind Cook, says so:

This sculpture depicts Jesus with the children… I have depicted Christ more to show His character qualities. He is a bit larger than scale to signify His deity. I have shown His compassion and His love. He is strong and well built, wearing the typical attire of Biblical days and yet the children are contemporary children showing that He is the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. His foot transcends the perimeter of the base indicating that He is accessible to all.

Which is why it’s a bit surprising that the Edmond Visual Arts Commission in Edmund, Okla. wanted to spend $3,900 of taxpayer money to put the sculpture in front of a Catholic gift shop.

June Cartwright, chair of the commission, told the Associated Press that the sculpture was viewed simply as a piece of art and is not a religious endorsement.

“It’s a piece of artwork,” Cartwright said. “It doesn’t state that it is specifically Jesus. It is whatever you perceive it to be.”

That’s some hard core ignorance.

Sandhya Bathija of Americans United points out:

That’s the same city that, a decade ago, was forced to pay $200,000 in legal fees after losing a court battle to keep a cross on its city seal. It’s the same art commission that wanted to spend $17,500 in public funds on a statue of Moses outside Edmond’s First Christian Church. That concept was squashed following a public outcry.

Maybe the commission thought the third time was a charm.

At least there’s a happy ending to this story.

Bathija says this:

The mayor of Edmund, Okla. announced the city will not go along with the Edmond Visual Arts Commission’s decision to fund this sculpture with taxpayer money, according to a report from the Associated Press.

“We’re not looking for a lawsuit,” Edmond Mayor Dan O’Neil said.

O’Neil said only private funding will go toward the statue.

Anyone think they’ve learned their lesson?

  • Jeff E.

    Oklahoma.

    Interestingly – that business about the foot is reminiscent of Tibetan Buddhist art. Some of their figures are depicted sitting with one foot extended, ready to spring into action to come to the aid of sentient beings.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    Speaking personally I would hate to see religious icons or art forms with religious overtones removed from public places or denied a public forum. Lots of religious art is beautiful and thought provoking. if you deny public money for art of a religious subject then you should deny public money for art of an anti religious subject and vise versa.

    What I would prefer is that the religious element of art were simply one of many factors in choosing them.

    This particular statue is too cheesy to spend money on but then I’m not a fan of very obvious art, Hallmark moments or any art that makes someone look like a kiddy fiddler.

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  • http://bornagainblog.wordpress.com Justin

    @ Jeff E.

    Oklahoma.

    Hey! We’re trying, ok? :)

    Now, I read through this sentence…

    June Cartwright, chair of the commission, told the Associated Press that the sculpture was viewed simply as a piece of art and is not a religious endorsement.

    …and felt that while the statue isn’t all that good, frankly a lot of artists in my state aren’t and I’d hate to see one be stifled in her development in a case of what sounded like bigotry. Then I read this…

    “It’s a piece of artwork,” Cartwright said. “It doesn’t state that it is specifically Jesus. It is whatever you perceive it to be.”

    ..which is clearly crap and then I thought ok, they should pull the funding.

    The best thing to come out of religion has been the art. The music! The frescas! The ceilings! I don’t believe in gods, but I think the metaphor of myth is fecund with prompts for really good art. But if they’re going to lie about it then they shouldn’t get funded.

    Not because they’re “promoting religion” which would only be true if someone of another faith had been denied funding. They shouldn’t do it because they’re lying.

  • T’s Grammy

    1st: hoverFrog, art with an anti-religious nature shouldn’t be funded by taxpayer dollars — for exactly the same reason. We’re not talking about museums here but a statue on the side walk

    But the that’s not Jesus nonsense does bring back bad memories. On a job with a state department, I was routinely harrassed when I was stupid enough to answer truthfully when a coworker I was friendly with asked what religion I was. One of the forms that most horrified me was pictures of Jesus being plastered all over the office cubicles and such. Went all the way up to the Department of Human Rights with that one only to hear — you guessed it — it didn’t constitute Jesus because it wasn’t labelled. Without a cross or his name, it was just a guy in a robe. I could have and probably should have appealed but that would have involved taking the state to court and I feared for my and my daughter’s safety at that ensuing publicity.

    I was actually more horrified for one of my co-workers than myself. She was Jewish and quite open about all four of her grandparents being survivors of the Holocaust. These pics of Jesus were plastered all over while she was on vacation. She didn’t have the guts to join me in my complaint but it did scare the hell out of her.

  • Stephen

    That statue looks like that guy Al, who was arrested recently at the local part for baiting kids and charged with several counts of pedophilia.

    I always find it interesting that, since we don’t know what Jesus looked like (though we are pretty sure he was ethnically middle-eastern, if he existed) we like to show him as a white dude that could be in a rockband, like Metallica.

    Why is he frequently with little white kids too? If Jesus loves the little children shouldn’t he be equally creepy with kids of all races and backgrounds. I get the feeling that these are only privileged private school kids. :)

  • Polly

    Technically, religious icons are art. If it were a pic of Poseidon or a hobbit-thingy, it wouldn’t trouble me at all. It’s the deception that bothers me. It’s clear from precedent that they are trying to Christianize the city with public funds. Had their previous actions revealed a broader horizon, I’d’ve given them the benefit of the doubt. But, they just want to help organizations cram their personal mythology down people’s throats.

    Commercials can be art, too. So, it’s not just art, in this case, it’s propaganda.

  • Jeff Flowers

    Personally, I wouldn’t want my city funding art, regardless of what is being created. Funds are too tight for that.

  • Vincent

    I went to graduate school in Edmond in 1996.
    I remember the crosses on the police cars.
    I am surprised to hear that was removed a decade ago – like just after I left.
    Of course I was a christian at the time I was there so it didn’t bother me. Funny how life changes.

    Anyway, if a city commissions an artist to do something uplifting and the artist makes a religious sculpture, the city should pay for it, but if the artist has already made a religious piece of art, the city should not buy it.
    Basically, funding artists should be neutral, neither requiring nor prohibiting a religious message. But public funds should not be spent to endorse a religious message already made.

    p.s.

    The best thing to come out of religion has been . . . The frescas!

    I didn’t know grapefruit soda was religious. I’m glad I can’t drink it anymore because of my cholesterol meds.

  • Matthew

    The best thing to come out of religion has been the art. The music! The frescas! The ceilings! I don’t believe in gods, but I think the metaphor of myth is fecund with prompts for really good art. But if they’re going to lie about it then they shouldn’t get funded.

    Replace “religion” with “recreational drugs” and you’ll find that euphoria and delusions have often produced amazing art and music.

    Different century, different drugs…

  • David D.G.
    The mayor of Edmund, Okla. announced the city will not go along with the Edmond Visual Arts Commission’s decision to fund this sculpture with taxpayer money, according to a report from the Associated Press.

    “We’re not looking for a lawsuit,” Edmond Mayor Dan O’Neil said.

    O’Neil said only private funding will go toward the statue.

    Anyone think they’ve learned their lesson?

    It seems that the mayor has, at least on a practical level. That’s a start.

    ~David D.G.

  • Larry Huffman

    Yes….

    …it is art, not religious.

    And…the bible is just a book. And the 10 commandments is just a tablet with writing on it…

    …and a stake is just a piece of wood, until the christians get more control, and then there are oh so many uses when placed amid fire.

    Nope…sorry. If the slippery slope that I portray seems extreme, it is not. It is the same fear our founders had that caused them to very vocally provide a seperation between church and state.

    You see…our founders were alive in the late 1700′s…and the last official execution of the inquisition took place in Mexico City (by the authority of the pope), where 12 ‘infidels’ were executed for speaking blasphamy…in the early 1800′s. Some 40 years after our nations birth. They were burned at the stake, I will add.

    So you see…our nations founding didn’t really take place after all of that mess…it was still going on. Our founders knew better than any of us just how dangerous it was to allow religion to have control.

    When you read their strong words of warning about religion playing a part in government…it is not idle. They knew first hand the torment and misery religion would cause if it got a foothold and so they acted appropriately and kept it from creeping in.

    Anyone who thinks we needn’t have this fear anymore…only has to consider that the biblical verses that supported the murderous rampage the church went on for several centuries, are still right there in the bible. Unchanged…waiting for the right leader to come along and spur the faithful into action once more.

  • Larry Huffman

    And besides…no matter how much people like Palin WISH that our founders actually wrote ‘under god’ in the pledge when the formed our nation…the reality is, wanting religion to be part of government in any way shape or form is patently unamerican.

    Anyone who disagrees can try to prove me wrong…but before you do, read the Constitution…where there is a cavernous LACK of god…and then read the federalist and anti-federalist papers…throw in the writings of Jefferson and Madison for good measure.

    Of course you can find people…individuals…who disagreed. But…in the official records listed above…and the writings of those two men who were most involved in our founding…you will find nothing but disdain for religion. You will not find one case where our founders intended for religion to have ANY part in our government.

    That includes paying for stupid statues of jesus loving the little children…(of course, they could have made it fit the doctrine more and had him flinging a little muslim kid into the fires of hell)…The money spent on the statue…no matter how ‘nice’ religious people think it will be to have it in their town, would be far better spent on a teacher’s raise or some new text books, or road repair. Because we need those things. No one…even the religious…NEEDS a statue of jesus in their town. Go home and look upon the graven image (ooops…statues of your god were forbidden in your 10 commandments anyway…how about that?) of your precious jesus.

  • Jeff E.

    (of course, they could have made it fit the doctrine more and had him flinging a little muslim kid into the fires of hell)

    Oh, I love it! FSM bless you Larry – seriously.

  • Jeff E.

    In fact, I would go so far as to insist that if religious art is to be paid for with public funds, or displayed on public grounds, that it be made to represent what the religion in question really teaches – not the whitewashed “get ‘em in the door” version.

    You want a Christmas tableau on the common in front of Town Hall? Fine, you can have it – but no baby-Jesus-in-a-manger bullshit. You have to have a painting or a sculpture of God casting untold billions into hell, while the Christians stand around laughing and jeering.

  • Magdalena

    As a resident of Edmond, Oklahoma I can guarantee that the city has NOT learned a lesson. The colossal ignorance in this state has blinded the majority of it’s populace, foregoing logic and of course the law. In a state where religion–specifically hardcore Christianity–reigns supreme, these kinds of issues are ever present. It’s draining and sometimes disheartening to constantly fight against teachers who openly preach about Christianity–in class–while lambasting other religions, a government who slapped evolution disclaimers in all state science textbooks, daily “moments of silence” in classrooms that were indeed designed for prayer….it never ends.

  • http://bornagainblog.wordpress.com Justin

    @Magdalena Another Okie! Yay!!! Have you a blog?

  • Magdalena

    Sorry Justin, no blog.

    I’m more of a lurker.

    :)

  • http://bornagainblog.wordpress.com Justin

    @Magdalena Lurking is ok, too.


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