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Artist asked to take down religious art from library

Photo: Ralph Beach Lawrenceville artist Ralph Beach presents his art exhibit at the Grayson Branch Library of evangelical preachers, including Joel Osteen shown.

Photo: Ralph Beach Lawrenceville artist Ralph Beach presents his art exhibit at the Grayson Branch Library of evangelical preachers, including Joel Osteen shown.

GRAYSON -- When Lawrenceville resident and artist Ralph Beach first hung his art at the Grayson Branch Library, he was told he could keep it up until Aug. 11. But after a complaint made by a library patron, he was asked to take it down this past Saturday.

Beach's exhibit consisted of eight well-known evangelical preachers, including Joel Osteen, made from Stonehenge paper (a traditional fine art paper with a smooth, flawless surface that resembles vellum) in a large scale.

"They made me take it down," Beach said. "I guess some of the bigwigs from the office in charge of the libraries ... said it was 'inclusive, too narrow.'"

The library originally hung the art, but a library official said that the scope of the art wasn't realized until it was on view to the public.

"Both the community and local artists have enjoyed and benefited from the art program at the library," said Barbara Spruill, branch services division director for Gwinnett County Public Library. "We started the program so that the community could experience the work of local artists in a neutral environment. ... The library strives to present the community with a broad perspective. What has happened with Mr. Beach is unfortunate. The scope of this display was not realized until it was fully installed."

Beach doesn't only create religious works -- he paints nature and people as well.

"They said I could put something else up, but now I don't think I want to," he said. "Now I'm asking, 'What can I put up?' What if I wanted to do all pictures from the Holocaust or slavery? What then? Where does the censorship end? Art is supposed to evoke emotions.

"Since I can't show (this art) anywhere else except for churches where it's home at, maybe I can bring them there, then offer to sell prints of the originals and the sale of every print goes to the church," Beach said.

Even after the dismissal of the exhibit, Spruill said would like to work with Beach again in the future.

"We look forward to highlighting the works of local artists and hope that Mr. Beach will continue to participate," she said.

Beach's artwork can be found at www.ralphbeachart.com.

Comments

FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

I'm not a fan of his subject matter, as I personally think men like Osteen teach a form of idolatry in teaching the "prosperity gospel," but I'm not sure how a pencil drawing of a preacher is offensive.

Honestly, how "delicate" are your "sensibilities" if these drawings offend you?

I don't blame the artist at all for being hesitant about showing any other art. Some people are just determined to be offended by anything.

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Susan 2 years, 4 months ago

In a county with over 800,000 people, only one complains and they take down the exhibit? What if it had been an exhibit of caged birds and one animal rights advocate complained about featuring innocent animals in captivity? Would they take it down?

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ssilover1 2 years, 4 months ago

The management of the Grayson Library or the system (whoever made the decision to remove the art) made a basic management mistake. One does not respond to one concern. And certainly, in a library??? One can walk away. The art does not promove promiscuity, anything illegal, nor a devious societal act. Shame on poor management. Hopefully someone is authority will rethink this mistake of action and show real leadership. Put it back.

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NewsReader 2 years, 4 months ago

"...The library originally hung the art, but a library official said that the scope of the art wasn't realized until it was on view to the public..."

Really? What scope was that? That of Preachers? Seriously? This is the Jewish Woman's complaint?

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teelee 2 years, 4 months ago

Somebody grow a spine please,how did this country ever get to this point? Offended? I am offended when I visit a library and I see all of these gang looking thugs using the free internet, hanging out, cutting up and disturbing people trying to study. If you want to remove something remove them.

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roaads1 2 years, 4 months ago

Sometimes "Good Grief" just isn't strong enough.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

Lol folks who leave comments on this site love screaming about how others have no respect for the laws of our land, yet here y'all are crying foul when our government enforces its own law of making sure public institutions don't implicitly endorse any religion.

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

If the library showcases local artists, and this was a local artist, then the library is endorsing the artist, and not necessarily his subject matter. I don't see any way that this equates to government endorsement of a religion. Unless there was a government official standing there and forcing people to look at these drawings while trying to convert them to a religion, then all I see is a bunch of pencil drawings of evangelicals. Not exactly a ringing establishment of religion.

And by the way, the federal government was forbidden from establishing a national religion. If the states had wanted to establish there own, they were free to. Most adopted the federal view of keeping church and state separated. And the notion of "separation of church and state" as a founding principle of our government...that phrase is not found in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, nor the Federalist papers. It came about in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

This wasn't an art show, the library hung the painting on the wall. The courts have continuously ruled that this kinda display amounts to the government sanctioning religion. Also, you're wrong about States being able to establish their own religion, the supremacy clause would prevent that.

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MissDaisyCook 2 years, 4 months ago

Sport, You need to retake your basic constitutional law course. This sort of display in a library is in no way fostering anything other than the ability of someone to draw a picture. Further, it has held legally permissable for such displays to occur in public librarys.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

It has been held legal where other religious symbols are displayed. Put a photo of a Rabbi and a monk up and everything would be cool.

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

Let me get this straight...a drawing of a preacher is bad...but a drawing of a preacher, next to the drawing of a rabbi and the drawing of a monk (while sounding like the start to a really bad joke) is okay?

That doesn't make sense. If merely allowing the drawing of a preacher to hang in a library constitutes government endorsement of Christianity, then it stands to reason that showing that same drawing next to the drawings of a rabbi and monk would constitute government endorsement of Chritianity, Judaism, and whatever branch of devotion the monk represented.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

The rationale is by being inclusionary, there is no endorsement of any religion within government. It's supreme court logic. Personally, I dont think any religious displays should be put up in any public institutions.

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

I stand corrected and apologize. I'm a big supporter of the Tenth Amendment and I let that cloud my thinking and just completely forgot about the supremacy clause. Thanks for the reminder.

That said, I still don't see this an endorsement of religion.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

Its all good. But alone the pic is an endorsement because there is no secular purpose and there aren't any other religious symbols displayed alongside it to show that there is no religious preference in a state institution.

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Sandykin 2 years, 4 months ago

Can someone please explain to me how a rendering of a person's head is offensive? How does this actually promote religion? What if it depicted Buddha? Would there be a complaint then?

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

You don't see how posting the face of a well known preacher at a public library could be seen as an implicit government approval of religion?

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

The image of Martin Luther King, Jr. can be found in several libraries. He was a well known preacher. Does that constitute an implicit government approval of religion?

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

Except he wasn't just a preacher and helped radically reshape the laws of our country with his activism.

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

Oh, so...so long as a preacher is also an activist, then it's okay to display his picture in a library?

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

Yes, really. It seems like we're splitting some pretty fine hairs in this discussion. One could argue that Osteen is an activist, as he sponsors mission trips that feed the hungry and build houses in very poor regions. Or is it only considered "activism" if it brings about a change to US federal law?

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

You're comparing a man who gave his life for the soul of this country, to a guy who sells books and goes on mission trips? ok? Do you not see how that statement kinda doesn't make sense?

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

First, Martin Luther King Jr did not give his life for the soul of the country. He was murdered as a result of his politics, but I would avoid using hyperbole like "gave his life for the soul of the country."

Second, You're applying activism from an outside perspective. The people who are directly affected by Osteen's practice (whether you agree with his book sales or not) would probably judge him a good guy. I'm not trying to place one man above another, just making a point. Those most affected by the activities of a person will have a vastly different view from yours. You see Osteen as a book-seller who goes on mission trips. I don't totally disagree. But someone who gets help from one of those mission trips see Osteen as someone providing food, shleter, clothing, and much needed assistance. Dr. King's activism was different, and gained far more national/international/historical attention, I'll grant. But the immediate, intimate impact of a mission trip can't truly be compared one-to-one with Dr. King's political activism.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

Oh lord. Like I said, Joel Osteen sells books and goes overseas to preach about his religion, while King took up the very secular topic of racial oppression, which yes ended with him being killed because he sought to speak out against institutional oppression. One worked for a secular purpose, while the other one works for a religious purpose. Do you see the distinction?

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

No, I see your distinction. If Osteen went overseas and handed out food, but never thanked God for the food he was handing it, it would be okay to show his picture. So long as you don't mention your God in what you do, it's okay. Wait a minute...Martin Luther King said "Thank God Almighty, we are free at last." Isn't that a declaration of faith? Should we take down his pictures, since he invoked the Lord while doing his activist work?

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

Again. Joel Osteen goes overseas to evangelize, and while some of his work is good, it serves no secular purpose what so ever. Also, yes while Martin Luther King Jr did often times invoke the lord in his speeches, he worked for a secular purpose.

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newreader 2 years, 4 months ago

I am offended by the picture of Obama, will that be removed from the library?

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gwinnettisgreat1 2 years, 4 months ago

I have a question for you Ice Man. Which religion? Baptist? Methodist? Catholic? Which religion was being pictured?

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R 2 years, 4 months ago

Time to strip away all photos of Rev. Martin Luther King then

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MissDaisyCook 2 years, 4 months ago

I do not care for any of the evangical, mega-church, prosperity preachers. They are ALL out for themselves first. However, for the library board to breach its agreement with this painter due to the whinning of any visitor is not acceptable and cowardly.

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Gundoctor1 2 years, 4 months ago

If that is supposed to be Joel Osteen, then Mr. Beach should be getting a very large check in the mail from Houston, TX. ha ha ha.

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jack 2 years, 4 months ago

I guess I won't be offering my black velvet portrait of Tammy Faye Bakker- the one with the day-glo tears- for display.

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NewsReader 2 years, 4 months ago

Now Jack, that is seriously funny! LOL!

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

Shows that the Library system is run by idiots, including the guy that is President. Pictures of men are not advertising religion. Let that one person who is offended bring the people to court over it. That person is just as much an idiot.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

Yeah! Who cares about the establishment clause!!!

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

icecold - the problem i see with your argument is that you say merely showing the image of a preacher constitutes endorsement of that religion. By that argument, showing a picture of Barack Obama should count as endorsement of the Democrat Party. Showing a picture of Babe Ruth should count as an endorsement of the New York Yankees. Do you really think a library hanging up a picture of President Obama is an explicit endorsement of the Democratic Party? I don't.

Nor do I think that simply showing these pictures is the same as endorsing a religion. What if the next artist the library chose to feature decided that his or her art should depict Joel Osteen in a clown costume? Would you have a problem with the library displaying that image? I'm just curious...

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

Most the information i'm finding flows along the same lines. Government breaches the establishment clause only if they literally establish a church, if they coerce religious participation, or if the favor one religion above another. Therefore, if the library were to show these images, but then not allow a display of pictures of Jewish rabbis, of Muslim Imams, then I could see the distinction. The library has not established a church, nor have they forced anyone to participate in any religious practice by having these images in the library.

You could argue that it presents a slippery slope for future potential exhibitions, but that is the library's burden, not ours.

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

The Lemon Test is really falling out of favor, and in many cases isn't even used anymore. Beyond that, the Lemon Test was a three-prong test that, if any one of the prongs was violated, constituted a violation of the entire establishment clause. How does a picture of a preacher in a library keep government from having a secular legislative purpose? How does the picture of a preacher in a library advance or inhibit a particular religion? And how does the picture of a preacher in a library constitute "excessive government entaglement" with religion?

The entanglement is excessive (if existent at all) only because people are pushing to make it so. One person complained, therefore this was deemed to be excesive entanglement? Nah, I don't see it. I can see a way in which it could be argued that showing a picture of a preacher constitutes the advancement of a religion, but by that same token, again using Dr. King as our example, one could say that showing an image of Dr. King counts as advancing a religion. And if our legislators are so enamored with having the image of a preacher in a library that it prohibits them from effecting proper constitutional governance, then we have a problem with our legislators, wouldn't you agree?

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

The Lemon test isn't falling out of favor, it's still used by the supreme court. Also, see Capitol Square Review Board v. Pinette, 515 U.S. 753 (1995) for precedent.

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 4 months ago

Apologies, I meant recently, not really. My fault for typing too fast.

I was referring to the McCreary County v. ACLU Kentucky case of 2005, where the petitioner for the county requested an overthrow of the Lemon Test. Not saying I agree, just pointing out fact.

I'm with you that government should not establish a religion. I just don't think that simply putting up a picture of a member/follower of a religion, in this case a preacher, constitutes an establishment of a religion. And let's go back to the original comments on this story. It's takes some very delicate sensibilities to be offended at the picture we're shown of Joel Osteen.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

Ah, I forgot that the lemon test was overturned. Despite the fact that the lemon test was overturned, case law is pretty much the same when it comes to how government can display anything that can be seen as an endorsement of any particular religion.

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news2me 2 years, 4 months ago

Joel Osteen vs MLK Jr.

The family of MLK has done more to damage his image by their family feuds and I bet they have made more than their share of $$$ off his name and legacy. None of that money has been used to repair the King Center, etc as government money is used for that purpose. The Reverend has a federal holiday in his honor.

By the way, Osteen is not God or Jesus Christ.

Anyone that worships a human being like Osteen or MLK needs to have their head examined. They can be admired and honored but never idolized or treated like a God.

Dems worship Obama like he is a God. Just sayin'.....

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

You just wanted to find some way to talk smack about King and Obama, didn't you?

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news2me 2 years, 4 months ago

I was talking "smack" about Osteen too, but you didn't recognize that because you are too busy worshipping Obama & MLK.

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OrganicGrl 2 years, 4 months ago

I can't believe they took this down because of one complaint. I agree with Teenee get the thugs out of the library that are hogging computers to use free internet.

What is offensive is driving on Steve Reynolds and Pleasant Hill Road with all the Chinese, Korean etc business. Heck I can't even read what business they are advertising because none of the signs are in English, United States official language.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

Nice to see that you not only oppose teenagers working on the computer at the library, but you also oppose businesses catering to folks from their culture. But I will let you do what you do.

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news2me 2 years, 4 months ago

I oppose teenagers like yourself going to the library to read the Constitution on sources like Wikipedia. Nevermind, I doubt you even go to the library since you don't realize it is a hangout place for hoodlums.

By the way there have been alot of stories lately of Immigrants running Illegal business in Gwinnett.

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Grantri 2 years, 4 months ago

FYI OrganicGirl... The United State has no official language..

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

but we still have some people left with common sense.

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wenmelt 2 years, 4 months ago

This another form of Government run agencys in America taking control of everything. I bet if it had been apicture of MLK, Obama, Jesse Jackson, or any other African American famous figure, it would of been ok. But because his art represents religious figures, it is offensive?? Offensive to whom?? I find the fact that Muslims walk around with their heads or faces covered. Does anyone asks them to remove their covering, doubt it. Well that is offensive to me. I speak English and so should everyone else who chooses to live here. It is time for America to grow some balls and get to defending our rights. if you are offended by that guys art, pleae move out of America, you will not be missed.

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icecold 2 years, 4 months ago

I bet you've never read the constition. Maybe you should leave America.

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news2me 2 years, 4 months ago

IF you have read any portion of the Constitution, it was to suit your needs and twist the meaning and interpretation. I bet you have never read the Constitution.

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

it is the liberal culture that is killing the country.

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SickandTired 2 years, 4 months ago

Oh hell when the article said it was a portrait of a preacher I thought it would be Jesus Christ or Billy Graham. Joel Osteen? Really? I don't follow the infomercial/TV type evangelicals so I would never had guessed who this dude is.....other than he's not that attractive looking :D

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news2me 2 years, 4 months ago

His pretty looks are nothing compared to hearing him speak. I don't know who could stand to listen to him for more than a minute or two. But my remote allows me to channel surf right past his show.

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Cr513 2 years, 4 months ago

While I do find those money grubbing mega churches offensive, I can't see what is the problem with this drawing based just on the picture shown. I also can't figure out why the library would put up pictures of preachers in the first place, but they said they would and so they should stick to that (given the pictures are not outwardly offensive, although maybe they are just not that great).

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bnhwillard 2 years, 4 months ago

OK...so artist could just say "nah it's not Osteen, just looks a bit like him". Then they have to put it back up. This is stupid, as many here have said. A "portrait" of a man who everyone agrees is just a human represents no religion at all. But to make sure this is done fairly, everybody check to make sure there are no pictures of Farrakhan up anywhere...

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bnhwillard 2 years, 4 months ago

Wait...the caption says it is from an exhibit of evangelical preachers? Is this true? If so, why was Joel singled out?

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news2me 2 years, 4 months ago

Probably because his pic looks better than that of Creflo Dollar or Eddie Long.

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myview 2 years, 4 months ago

Hmm, many classics were written by clergy - like Gulliver's Travel's by Jonathan Swift. I wonder if they will get pulled from the shelves to make sure we keep religion out of the library.

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gwinnettisgreat1 2 years, 4 months ago

Someone help me out here... Which religion was being pictured?

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SickandTired 2 years, 4 months ago

Now @icecold did you request removal of my fact checking post about Creflo Dollar and Eddie Long?

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Sonoma 2 years, 4 months ago

There are plenty of posters a library can obtain from the Library Association to put in any library.    I am religious, but having religious artwork in a library; it's just the wrong venue.   With the shorter hours and less resources, one would think the Gwinnett Libraries would want to highlight their collection of adult, teen, and children's titles.
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Sonoma 2 years, 4 months ago

Why not highlight this artwork at the Duluth Arts festival or the Dogwood festival or a church? Why did it have to be a library? My grandmother would say the library directors are a few flapjacks short a stack in their way of thinking.

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notamom 2 years, 4 months ago

Wow, Joel Osteen looks a LOT like early 90's Jerry Seinfeld. Are we sure it wasn't an exhibit of Jewish comedians?

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NewsReader 2 years, 4 months ago

This whole thing is much to do about nothing. Beach is an artist; nothing more, nothing less. If you go look at his works, he has quite an array of artwork he has created, the least of which demonstrates religion. This is a very stupid over reaction by an ignorant government institution. Go figure! If he did put up more of his works, it would probably have more black people represented and then somebody would cry foul because it is racist. This idiot busy-body that was "offended" is nothing more than a community pot stirrer. Beach just needs to take the high road and take his artwork elsewhere where it can be appreciated and not be the subject of some government bureaucrat's stupidity.

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Kent 2 years, 4 months ago

"Both the community and local artists have enjoyed and benefited from the art program at the library," said Barbara Spruill, branch services division director for Gwinnett County Public Library. "We started the program so that the community could experience the work of local artists in a neutral environment. ... The library strives to present the community with a broad perspective. What has happened with Mr. Beach is unfortunate. The scope of this display was not realized until it was fully installed."

I do not understand Ms. Spruill's concept of a neutral environment. Does she have a problem with a non violent Christian minister. Just a few years ago the Lenora Church Rd. library had rather large banner with a likeness of Malcolm X hanging inside. In fact he was a Muslim minister who advocated "By Any Means Necessary" which included inflicting violence to achieve his goals. I guess library staff is fine with hanging violent revolutionaries pictures in the library yet taking down Rev. Joe's picture because it invokes fear among children when they gaze upon his likeness.

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A_Gwinnett_Atheist 2 years, 4 months ago

I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. However, If these pictures do not display religious icons or labels indicating the support of 1 religious view and is limited to just drawings of preachers, then I would have no problem with the display. Now the question comes to who should be offended. The true offense should be that someone idealizes a group of preachers that are obviously in it for money. That group of preachers that are becoming mufti-millionaires at the expense of those gullible enough to believe money donated to them will somehow be used for greater good than money to other charitable organizations. Billy Graham said he would never take a salary higher than one hundred thousand dollars, of course with liberal travel expenses reimbursement, and he was the exception. Fortunately, we do have some clergy that are truly out to help people, so I do not wish to condemn all in the clergy, only those that think they have a right to live with the wealthy while preaching to help the poor. Those that ask for donations from the masses so they can have greater wealth.

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toby 2 years, 4 months ago

I finally offended someone! Yee Hawww! I got removed. More to come. Stay tuned...........

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ssilover1 2 years, 4 months ago

Most bloggers here have missed the point. The censorship of the art work was based on a library user's objection. He/she??? was offended. Well, there are hundreds of us offended by the decision to take down renderings of preachers BASED ON a person's opinion. We who are non-complainers are sick and tired of the grumpy, self-absorbed individuals who cannot tolerate anything other than their own ideologies and their taking control of every aspect of our lives. In this overly sensitive politically correct vs incorrect world we promote lack of tolerance instead of tolerance. Weak gives in to the whiners over and over. Why can't we be stronger than that? Like I wrote originally....Grayson Library or the library system suffers from extreme lack of leadership.

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