For an assignment in his art class, a student at the University of Southern Maine decided to deface a Bible — tear its pages to “look like flames,” and place images of Satan in place of Christ.
Riley Harris called his project the “Unholy Bible: Very Revised Standard Edition” for the task of “re-purpos[ing] a book into something new,” according to Central Maine.
Harris says he based his decision for the piece on “thinking a lot about questioning authority in general,” and how religious authority, in particular, seems above reproach.
Charlie Flynn, a member of the Casco Bay Church of Christ whose daughter had seen Harris’s work on display outside a classroom, said that while he “understands the right to freedom of speech,” he thinks Harris’s work is “repugnant.”
“I couldn’t help but feel no one’s sacred text should be treated that way,” Flynn said. “I think it’s very inappropriate …”
From the story: “If I saw a Koran with pig blood on it I would certainly call someone, or a Torah with unclean foods on it,” [Flynn] 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.” …
Jared Cash, vice president for enrollment management and marketing at the university, defended the piece Monday, saying in a statement, “The university supports freedom of speech rights for all students, affirmed and upheld by Board of Trustee System Policy 212.”
The policy states that the university supports free speech so long as it does not “violate the law, defame specific individuals, genuinely threaten or harass others, or violate privacy or confidentiality requirements or interests.”
Harris noted he did get some criticism from peers while working on the piece, but not much since. He added he understands the negative reaction, but “everyone thinks their own way – and not everyone’s (morals) line up.”
If he really wanted to be edgy, Harris should have desecrated a Koran. Considering the USM president’s reaction to a convicted sex offender’s paintings last year (“could ‘serve as a trigger’ for victims of abuse”), would the school have been as supportive as in the Bible’s case?