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After the startling revelation that apparently placing a Styrofoam replica of the Holy Bible in a display for a biblically based show, was a violation of separation of church and state I have been thinking….

Is a theatre group that receives partial funding from the state or NEA a ‘state’ organization?

How does a bible replica constitute an endorsement of a particular religion especially if inherently the show is bible based and actually cites chapter references in the script?

Why is it seemingly acceptable to place a desecrated religious icon in a government supported event but just the religious icon itself it offensive?

I have been reminded of the Robert Mapplethorpe controversy of 20+ years ago here in Cincinnati. The basis of the controversy was really several images of nude children as well as other nude photos BUT also included was a picture of a crucifix in a jar of urine entitled “Christ Pissed”. After a court battle it was determined that the exhibit was allowed after all and that no decency laws were violated but some questions still remain…..

If the same images from the exhibit (that were deemed non pornographic) were found on a persons present day computer hard drive, would they be arrested and charged with child pornography? My thought is probably they would be arrested and charged HOWEVER, if they posted them in an art exhibit at a local museum it would be acceptable.

If a simple crucifix was displayed in an exhibit funded by the government someone would charge ‘separation of church and state’ and demand the offending object be immediately removed BUT if you then took the same crucifix and placed it in a bowl of excrement it would now be an acceptable ‘work of art’.

I am a believer in freedom of speech and the right of folks to create artwork and display such works HOWEVER… I still don’t understand why MY tax dollars were used to support an artist that desecrated anyone’s religious icon. Once again common sense should have prevailed but did not. How anyone could look at pictures of nude children and think it is acceptable simply because someone called it ‘art’ is beyond me regardless of government support AND how could the government support crime?

More questions….

If a set designer chose to use a religious icon such as a bible in a set would it be deemed ok if that same set designer were also an atheist? In other words the reason for the ‘offensive’ icon would have absolutely no hidden agenda. My guess is that this would be entirely acceptable. If however the set designer was not an atheist but a born again Christian, there must be a hidden agenda and therefore it must be removed because it is offensive. Would this not constitute discrimination based upon the religious beliefs of the folks involved?

This thought in our present day society that our religious beliefs must be kept separate from our secular lives is crazy and really impossible. The biblical book of James says that “faith without works is dead”. I don’t think this means ‘churchy’ works of faith but allowing our faith to govern our everyday lives and decisions. The problem of this ‘double life’ idea is it really does an injustice to both our faith and secular lives. That being said I also don’t believe in cramming your belief system down the throat of another person. If simply living life as a Christian, Jew, or whatever is offensive to someone else perhaps we have all gotten a bit to over sensitive?

In one final note; nowhere in the constitution of the United States is found the phrase “separation of Church and State”. The phrase actually came from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist group concerned about government influence in their church. The constitution states that “congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion or prevent the free exercise thereof”. How we get that from that statement that a bible placed in a theatrical display is establishing a religion I guess I will never understand.


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