The Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) in California has pulled the infamous “Piss Christ” photograph from one of its courses after considerable backlash from Christian parents and students.
The controversial 1987 photograph from artist Andres Serrano had been used in the City of Goleta’s Don Pueblo High School as part of the required Theory of Knowledge course for its International Baccalaureate Diploma. The photograph depicts Jesus Christ on a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine and debuted in 1987 after Serrano received taxpayer-funded grant money from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Attorneys with the Thomas More Society had alleged in a letter to the SBUSD that the school had created a hostile environment for Christian students through the use of the image and demanded it be removed from the high school curriculum.
“The school’s deliberate use of a despicable image in a course required for an International Baccalaureate Diploma shows extremely poor judgment,” Thomas More Society special counsel Paul Jonna said in a statement to Fox News. “Even more importantly, it is an act of unconstitutional anti-Catholic, anti-Christian bigotry.”
Parents expressed their concerns about the “Piss Christ” image at a May 23 school board meeting, where they threatened a lawsuit if the school did not pull it from the course. Following that, the SBUSD sent a letter to the Thomas More Society saying that it disagreed the image violated students’ First Amendment rights but understood it caused severe offense.
“We disagree that use of the image is illegal under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment or otherwise. However, the District recognizes that use of the image invokes hurtful responses among many in the community,” it said. “Because the course curriculum can adequately be covered by discussion and through utilization of other slides, the image will not be included in the future.”
While the artist, Andres Serrano, has never described himself as an anti-Catholic, he did leave the church at age 13 and says his work depicts a conflict between his personal beliefs and organized religion.
“Serrano finds childhood experiences and conditioning hard to exorcise,” Art News wrote. “He says his work is informed by ‘unresolved feelings about my own Catholic upbringing which help me redefine and personalize my relationship with God. For me, art is a moral and spiritual obligation that cuts across all manner of pretense and speaks directly to the soul.'”
Paul Roland Bois joined Breitbart News in 2021. He also directed the award-winning feature film, EXEMPLUM, which can be viewed on Tubi, Google Play, YouTube Movies, or Vimeo on Demand. Follow him on Twitter @prolandfilms or Instagram @prolandfilms.