Sharon Marolf’s painting of her granddaughter (Photo: Alliance Defense Fund)

An artist filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against a Colorado city for removing two paintings because they include Bible quotations.

Award-winning painter Sharon Marolf, represented by the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, had two of her pieces displayed at a city recreation center in Delta, Colo., before someone complained of being offended by the Bible verses.

One of the paintings features Marolf’s granddaughter and a quote from Psalms expressing the artist’s views about the value of a child. The other painting, titled “Circle/Squares,” displays Scripture passages that reference circles and squares.

“It is absolutely absurd to say that a piece of art cannot be displayed in a public forum because the artwork contains a Scripture verse,” said ADF Legal Counsel Brett Harvey. “So much for art as the free expression of ideas.”

Harvey pointed out many of the greatest works in the history of art have had religious themes.

“The city does not have the legal right to censor the creative content of a painting simply because it has a religious viewpoint or because city officials think someone could be offended by it,” he said.

Marolf’s painting “Big Black Umbrella” depicts her granddaughter holding an umbrella. At the bottom of the painting is a quotation from Psalm 127:3: “Children are a heritage from the Lord: A reward from Him.”

Parts of the verse also appear in the background of the painting.

ADF noted Delta city officials frequently open the Bill Heddles Recreation Center hallways and rooms for the posting of artwork by local citizens.

Many pieces of art with Christian and other religious symbols and references have been displayed before without complaint, ADF argued.

One, in fact, was by Marolf – a painting of another granddaughter with the same verse from Psalms.

The Delta Fine Arts association, a private group of local artists, awarded that painting “Best of Show” that year.

ADF said the complaint [pdf file] was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after city officials refused to allow Marolf to redisplay her paintings despite having received a letter from ADF attorneys explaining the violation to her constitutional rights.

In February, a Florida city barred three paintings from a city hall display celebrating Black History Month because they contained small references to the Christian faith.

Officials for the city of Deltona, Fla., said 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.

“I saw the word ‘Jesus’ and the Holy Bible just sort of thrown in the painting,” Blossom told the Daytona Beach News-Journal, 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 was a joyful New Orleans funeral procession. Another, entitled “3 a.m.,” showed a partial Bible and part of the word “Jesus” on a church sign.

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