Here’s the Background Story:
Art has a knack for pushing buttons one moment and invoking bliss the next. There’s no limit to the themes or subjects covered by it, and spiritually inspired art has consistently been a staple of human expression. There have certainly been times where religious art has pushed against acceptable boundaries but has it ever crossed the line?
Here Are the Contributing Factors:
Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement,” circa 1541, caused an uproar among the Catholic church. They criticized his non-traditional depiction of Jesus lacking a beard and painted in classic pagan mythological style. That was bad enough, but the nearly 300 mostly nude males in the painting was too much. The church painted fig leaves and pieces of cloth over the offensive nudity. Some of these “additions” were removed as part of a restoration project centuries later, but there’s no denying the controversy Michelangelo created.
Fast forward to now, and we have another controversy on our hands. A painting of the 9/11 cross at ground zero with silhouettes of a plane and the twin towers was created. The dispute isn’t as much about the subject matter as it is about where the painting is located. It’s placed in the Camden County Courthouse in Missouri, which is government property.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, or FFRF, filed a complaint to have this painting removed from the courthouse. They claim it’s a breach of the First Amendment to have a religious symbol on government property. It’s not the first time the FFRF has won an appeal to relocated religiously inspired paintings. The courthouse moved a picture of a bible verse with an American flag into a private employee workspace.
The Camden County Presiding Commissioner, Greg Hasty, calls the 9/11 cross little more than “a Latin cross hung on the wall… by order of the county government.” Many locals are defending the painting, and some openly believe that anyone with a problem with this new painting should be shipped out of the country. The equivocation between the 9/11 cross and Christianity is apparent to the FFRF, though.
Rudy Guiliani, who was New York City’s mayor during 9/11, claims the 9/11 cross found at ground zero transcended religion. It became a part of history and unifying force for those affected by the tragedy. Camden County residents accept this interpretation of what the 9/11 cross, and, by extension, this new painting, is.
This Is What Other People Think:
Poll: Can Religious Art Go Too Far?
37% Voted Yes
63% Voted No
What Do You Think?
Not everyone looks through the same lens on this matter. Some critics see the equivocation as much more than a violation of the First Amendment. They view the 9/11 cross as an endorsement of a holy war between Christianity and Islam. The fact that the painting is on government-owned grounds makes it worse.