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Austin Cline

Oregon: Museum May Show Goddess Statue After All

By February 28, 2005

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A town in Oregon is in an uproar because the museum wants to exhibit a statue of the goddess Hebe. A similar statue used to stand in public but was accidentally knocked down. Now, some Christians are objecting to the display because it's anti-Christian.

The Seattle Times reported:

Douglas County Commissioners have sent a letter to the Douglas County Museum, telling them to stop preparations for an exhibit on Hebe that was to open next month. "We appreciate all of your hard work," the letter said. "Unfortunately, this issue is very divisive in our county."

Critics of the drive to bring Hebe back to Roseburg view the statue as an anti-Christian icon. They associate the statue with paganism and Wicca, a religion with a belief in supernatural power. Janet Beebe, a member of the Douglas County Museum Advisory Board, said she was shocked that commissioners would act to stop the exhibit.

Someone seems to have gotten through to the commissioners and made them realize how foolish they look. The News-Review reports on their reversal:

Commissioner Doug Robertson said he wanted to ensure that the reason behind the exhibit was to educate the public and not to fan the flames of controversy.

Because, as you know, art is supposed to "educate" and never cause "controversy."

Lewis and other supporters of the move to revive Hebe point out that Christians were behind the original efforts to erect the statue and that Hebe is nothing more than a mythological being.

Jerry Smart, pastor of the Winston Foursquare Gospel Church, said during an Internet search he easily found Web sites showing Hebe as a subject of worship. "Therein, lies the problem for me," said Smart, who nonetheless said he supported an educational display at the museum. "At the same time, I'm uncomfortable with what this statue represents," he said.

What's truly ironic about all of this is the fact that there aren't any church/state separation issues involved. If the subject of display were Jesus, a Crucifix, or even a Ten Commandments monument, it would be perfectly legal. Displays in museums are not presumed in any way to be endorsed by the government, even if it's a government-funded museum. Therefore, even the most overt religious messages are acceptable (from a constitutional perspective they might still be bad art, though).

Therefore, the objections being raised cannot be framed as objections based upon concerns for the government endorsement of religious messages. Instead, the objections are purely based upon dislike of the alleged religious ideas involved. To put it simply, some Christians object to pagan and Wiccan ideas that might possibly be represented by a statue of Hebe and thus don't want a local museum to have the statue. I'm sure they wouldn't mind an exhibition of Christian artwork.

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