A distasteful art installation at the University of Southern Maine has prompted a complaint from a member of a church that gathers in the building in which the piece is being displayed.
The shocking piece features a Bible with torn pages and Satanic images that obscure the face of Christ. Riley Harris, the USM student behind the controversial piece, has insisted that it was created in accordance with an artwork assignment.
“I was thinking a lot about questioning authority in general,” Harris told Central Maine of the project, which is titled “Unholy Bible: Very Revised Standard Edition.”
“People question different types of authority, but for some reason religious authority seems too taboo to question, so I thought I would give it a shot.”
But that wasn’t good enough for Charlie Flynn, a member of The Casco Bay Church of Christ, which on the Portland Campus at USM. It was as the family was attending a service when Flynn’s young daughter noticed the shocking display and alerted her father.
“This is someone’s sacred text being desecrated, destroyed and displayed in a public place,” Flynn told the outlet. “I couldn’t help but feel no one’s sacred text should be treated that way. I think it’s very inappropriate and repugnant.”
After receiving a complaint from Flynn, the University’s vice president for enrollment management and marketing, Jared Cash, defended the student’s right to free speech.
The university “supports freedom of speech rights for all students, affirmed and upheld by Board of Trustee System Policy 212,” he said. The policy itself details that if the expression free speech does not “violate the law, defame specific individuals, genuinely threaten or harass others, or violate privacy or confidentiality requirements or interests,” it is duly permitted on campus.
While supporting the right to free expression, Flynn believes the artwork causes undue offense, and would not be allowed if it mocked other religions.
“If I saw a Koran with pig blood on it I would certainly call someone, or a Torah with unclean foods on it,” he said. “This is a Bible with Satan’s image put over Jesus’ image and around Christmastime. I don’t understand why that would be viewable in an institution of higher learning. This is USM, a school that services the community.”