Visitors entering the Sacramento County Public Law Library downtown will see a work of art that has outraged critics who say it is anti-Christian and should be removed.
The controversial mixed-media art is titled "Moral Values" and is part of a 63-piece exhibit that opened in the building last month. It features a Bible with a label stripped across the cover that reads: "Warning! May Impair Judgment."
In an "artist statement" posted next to her work, Jeri Wyrick said she created the piece after the 2004 presidential election: "I came to the conclusion that there must be something about religious faith which renders people stupid."
The Pacific Justice Institute, a Sacramento-based legal defense group specializing in religious issues, has demanded the art be removed.
"The purpose of the message is to directly attack and demean the foundation of the Christian faith," said Brad Dacus, president of the group. "If this had been another faith, there would be outrage."
The Sacramento County Public Law Library, which provides the public with free access to legal information, receives $572,000 from the county toward the lease of its building.
Coral Henning, the library director, said she has received only one complaint about the artwork and that the exhibit should be evaluated as a whole.
"I don't want to judge the art, but I think there are other pieces that provide balance," said Henning. She said she had no plans to take down the art. The exhibit, which opened last month, ends Sept. 9.
This is the second exhibit in five years at the library and is sponsored by California Lawyers for the Arts. A curator selected the artwork. The title of the current exhibit is "A Creative Merger II: Justice and Peace."
"We didn't select the art, we didn't approve it," Henning said.
Wyrick has two other works in the exhibit, both paintings from news photographs. One, "Bosnian Graveyard," depicts a woman crying in a graveyard and sells for $3,000. The other, "Middle Eastern Eyes," a painting of a Muslim woman in a hijab showing only her eyes, also sells for $3,000. "Moral Values" is priced at $500.
In her statement, Wyrick described her work. She said that she decided to create her controversial piece after exit polls showed most people cited moral values as their reason for voting for President George W. Bush in 2004.
"I hope that these pieces are not presumed as a group to be pro-Muslim/anti Christian – which they are not – as opposed to just anti-religious – which they admittedly are."
Wyrick could not be reached for comment.
Critics said the artwork violates the U.S. Constitution and is hostile to one religion.
"The law library is supposed to serve everyone," Dacus said. "And this does not belong in a government-sponsored institution."