Edmond approves religious statue despite outcry

Saturday, September 27th 2008, 9:47 pm
By: News 9

By Jon Jordan, NEWS 9

EDMOND, Okla. -- After a year of fundraising and a vote of approval, there will soon be a statue of Jesus in downtown Edmond, but some residents aren't pleased.

The woman behind the statue is very excited even if everyone didn't vote in its favor.

"I'm very happy. I was hoping they would just look at it as me as an individual, just like the others," Karen Morton said.

Morton owns Sacred Heart Catholic Gifts in downtown Edmond. Outside her store, by a park bench, is where the state will be placed.

It's not the placement or the religious affiliation of the statue that is bothering many residents, it's the price tag. Edmond residents will have to pay for half of the statue through tax dollars, which adds up to almost $4,000.

Some residents said this is a direct violation of the separation of church and state.

Sacred Heart Catholic Gift Shop owner Karen Morton, the driving force behind getting the statue approved, said she doesn't see the problem. Edmond has many statues throughout the downtown area and she believes her statue isn't any different.

However, residents said a statue of a newspaper boy versus a statue of Jesus is a big difference.

"I'm surprised. I can't imagine why they have gone ahead and approved to do this again," resident Margot Holaday said.

As Holoday mentioned, this isn't the first time the Edmond Visual Arts Commission has dealt with this issue.

Last year, a local church was looking for tax payer's money to fund a statue of Moses outside of their church. Public outcry over the project made the commission turn down the Moses statue and private funds had to pay for its commission.

Many Edmond residents are wondering why the Edmond Visual Arts Commission didn't make the same decision about the statue of Jesus.

Morton got support from the local arts commission, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the religious representation 6-2, with one member choosing to sustain.

"I'm not against religious items at all, I just don't think the taxpayers should pay for it and the constitution prohibits it," Holoday said.

The state's constitution says "No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion..."

Morton said in her situation, the idea outlined in the state constitution doesn't apply.

"They were talking about separation of church and state. I'm not an organization. I'm not a church or a structured religious entity," Morton said. "I'm just a business owner just like any of the others that had approached them."

Currently the commission is working on guidelines that would make it harder in the future to approve religious art.