Planned Edmond Jesus Christ statue faces controversy 

Jesus was just all right with the Doobie Brothers, but the possible public funding of a Jesus Christ statue created some controversy for the conservative city of Edmond, according to The Associated Press.

In the beginning (actually, in September), the Edmond Visual Arts Commission voted 6-2, with one abstention, to approve bringing the likeness of JC downtown, The Edmond Sun reported. Sacred Heart Catholic Gifts owner Karen Morton raised nearly $4,000 in donations to cover half of the cost for "Come to Me," a bronze statue by Tulsa artist Rosalind Cook. The commission planned to fund the remaining cost.

"We found a statue of Jesus with the children and that seemed to fall with the children's theme downtown," Morton reportedly said. "We have so many of the statues of children downtown." Morton hoped to have the statue in place around Christmas.

Not everyone was digging the idea. Barry Lynn, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told AP public funding of the statue clearly violated the U.S. Constitution.

"This is the third major unconstitutional effort they've engaged in in recent years," Lynn reportedly said. "It's a little surprising, because normally people pause to take a breath before they violate the Constitution again."

As Lynn said, this isn't the first biblical brouhaha in Edmond. After losing a court battle to keep a cross emblazoned on the city seal, Edmond was forced to fork over $200,000 in legal fees. (CFN intern Bucky is calculating a conversion of that amount in denarii, a currency used around the time o' Christ.) And if you're keeping tabs, the fair city retreated from a plan using public funds for a Moses statue near a church, according to AP.

"It's a slippery slope that the city wanders into when it does this," said Micheal Salem, the attorney who challenged Edmond on its cross usage on the city seal, according to AP. "Once they have set down that path, this means that if an application is made by some other group that wants to put some kind of religious object up in front of their business, then the city could be obligated or required to pay for it also."

Regarding the current controversy, Edmond city attorney Stephen Murdock stated the obvious to AP: "I think there are differences of opinions regarding that issue." He declined to elaborate on his recommendations to the commission.

Meanwhile, Morton didn't understand the problem.

"I don't see a problem with it. I'm not a church," Morton told the AP. "I've had absolutely no negative calls or anyone coming into the store with negative comments."

Finally, Edmond Mayor Dan O'Neil told AP private funds would be used to buy out the city's commitment to help fund the bronze sculpture.

"We're not looking for a lawsuit," O'Neil reportedly said, noting that the city attorney had grown concerned with Edmond having an ownership stake in the statue.

Lynn told AP he was "delighted" by the decision.

"Clearly the city has felt some heat, and now they have seen the constitutional light," Lynn told AP.

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