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City calls artist's black history paintings religious, yanks them

An artist said Wednesday he would sue the city of Deltona after his paintings, which include a partial Bible lying on a table and a person donning a cap that reads "I Love Jesus," were removed from City Hall.

Lloyd Marcus said his artwork merely depicts his childhood in black church culture, but city officials said the three paintings are overtly religious and removed them last week from a Black History Month display at City Hall.

A city employee asked Marcus to display his paintings, but city attorney John Kaney said that person was not authorized to open the display to the public. The display was for city employees to showcase their personal black history memorabilia, Kaney said.

Kaney rejected a demand by the Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group, that the city restore Marcus' paintings. Liberty Counsel said it will file a federal lawsuit.

Marcus said the artwork was based on childhood memories of his father's Baltimore church and was not intended to make a political statement.

"I hope that the people across the country will wake up and say enough already with the extreme political correctness and the anti-Christian bias," Marcus said. "I feel like we are asked to tolerate every religion, but anything with Jesus or any hint of Christianity is banned from the public square."

Liberty Counsel president Matthew Staver said black history can't be separated from religious history.

"While trying to avoid complaints from a hypothetical heckler, the city officials' act of censorship managed to offend a majority of Americans, and most particularly the Constitution," Staver said.

But Kaney said the display is part of city hall's decor, not a type of bulletin board for public notices.

"Mr. Marcus doesn't have a First Amendment right to walk into City Hall and hang something on the wall," he said.