Okla. Town Drops Funding Of Religious Statue

An Oklahoma town has cancelled a plan to spend $3,900 in taxpayer dollars to help purchase a statue of Jesus for placement in front of a Catholic gift shop.

The Edmond Visual Arts Commission approved funding for a depiction of Jesus holding a baby and playing with children, entitled “Come Unto Me.”

Commission Chair June Cartwright said the sculpture is simply art and not a religious endorsement.

“It’s a piece of artwork,” she told the Associated Press. “It doesn’t state that it is specifically Jesus. It is whatever you perceive it to be.”

But sculptor Rosalind Cook described her work as a depiction of Jesus. On her Web site, she writes, “I have depicted Christ more to show His character qualities.”

Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn warned that the proposed religion subsidy would violate the Constitution. Edmund Mayor Dan O’Neil said officials are not “looking for a lawsuit” and committed the city to find private funding to cover the cost.

A decade ago, the city was forced to pay $200,000 in legal fees after losing a court battle to keep a cross on its city seal.

The same art commission also wanted to spend $17,500 in public funds on a statue of Moses outside Edmond’s First Christian Church. That project was squashed following a public outcry.