Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Oklahoma Not OK With State-Funded Religious Statue

by Rachel Levitt


Tags: Spirituality, Jesus, Church and State, Americans United for Separation of Church and State,

The city of Edmond, Oklahoma, recently offered to pay for half of a sculpture that looks suspiciously like Jesus and is titled, “Come Unto Me,” the Associated Press reports. The 26-inch bronze sculpture by Rosalind Cook, which shows a familiar-looking bearded man in a robe and sandals talking to children, is to be placed outside a Catholic gift shop whose owner raised the funds to pay the other half of the statue’s $7800 price tag. Speaking to the AP, June Cartwright of the Edmond Visual Arts Commission said, “It doesn't state that it is specifically Jesus. It is whatever you perceive it to be.”

The claim might be slightly disingenuous, considering the artist identified the sculpture as one of Jesus on her website.

After an outcry led by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the mayor of Edmond announced that the city would not go through with the deal, and that the sculpture would be paid for by private funding.

The controversy lasted only a few days, but it's just one of many instances where the city of Edmond has tried to muddle the line between church and state. In 1996, Edmond lost a Supreme Court battle to keep a cross in the city seal. Last year, city officials were forced to back down from their decision to use over $8000 in public funds to put a statue of Moses outside a local church.