A Florida city has barred three paintings from a city hall display celebrating Black History Month because they contain small references to the Christian faith.

Officials at the city of Deltona, Fla., say hanging the colorful photos by artist Lloyd Marcus would be tantamount to the town favoring a specific religion.

Marcus’ paintings were to be part of an employee-organized display in the lobby of Deltona City Hall, but acting city manager Roland Blossom nixed the art, reported the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

“3 a.m.”

“I saw the word ‘Jesus’ and the Holy Bible just sort of thrown in the painting,” Blossom told the paper, saying because the display is in a public building, observers might “think this government is advocating in favor of one religion over another.”

One of the banned paintings is a joyful New Orleans funeral procession. Another, entitled “3 a.m.,” shows a partial Bible and part of the word “Jesus” on a church sign. “The Christmas Basket” shows a clergyman delivering food to a black family. With him are two people, one of whom wears a cap bearing the message “I (heart) Jesus.”

According to the News-Journal, Marcus, director of the Deltona Arts & Historical Center, was contacted by the city to donate the paintings from a published series titled, “STOREFRONTS: Fond memories of growing up in my minister dad’s east Baltimore church.”

“The Christmas Basket”

The woman in charge of the city display, Jeannine Gage, says she had only received positive feedback about the artwork.

“It’s not like there’s an angry crowd of residents at the doors of City Hall,” Gage is quoted as saying.

Marcus says censorship of Christianity has become a serious problem.

“The city is a victim in this, too, because they’re just scared [of a lawsuit],” Marcus told the paper. “Rather than offend someone they just take it down.”

Blossom, who is black, acknowledge the church is a big part of black history, but that fact wasn’t enough to change his mind.

“Like any other race, black people are tied in with a lot of things,” he said. “I don’t think that gives us the right, because it’s Black History Month, to infringe upon the rights of other people.”

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