SALMON, IDAHO, June 11, 2011 (Reuters): A group of self-described constitutionalists protested on Friday a northern Idaho city's dedication of a sculpture depicting a Hindu Deity, Lord Ganesha. On its website, the Kootenai County Constitution Party called on Christians to vent their dismay about the "abomination" on a street in Coeur d'Alene and lashed out at local arts officials as a "godless group of individuals."
"Ganesha," a blue-hued metal sculpture by Spokane, Washington artist Rick Davis, represents the multi-armed, elephant-headed Hindu God. It is one of 15 loaned artworks to be dedicated by Coeur d'Alene and arts commission officials Friday evening, the kickoff of a program that underwrites the year-long display in public spaces of sculptures that are available for purchase.
Officials in Coeur d'Alene, an affluent, lakeside resort of 44,000, said they are perplexed by the gnashing over Ganesha. They said it is an irony that professed constitutionalists were not prepared to honor First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom and would be met with a counter-protest.
"People are coming to protest the protesters," said Steve Anthony, city liaison to the Coeur d'Alene Arts Commission. "The majority of residents here are very tolerant," Anthony said, adding that citizen's committee was guided by criteria such as artistic merit in selecting 15 art works.
On its web site, the Kootenai Constitution Party welcomes "patriots" and describes its aim "to restore constitutionally limited government" in a nation founded "not on religions but on the gospel of Jesus Christ."
The controversy is a blow for a city that promotes itself as a destination for international travelers and still smarts from the stigma associated with northern Idaho as the historic home of the white supremacy group Aryan Nations.
[HPI note: What follows is additional information from another report, published on the local KXLY news channel here.]
The local Constitution Party's website says, "Christians of Kootenai County should be dismayed at the appearance of a Hindu demon, Ganesh statue."
The post urges Christians to protest at the art current's dedication Friday.
Fifteen sculptures have been placed around the city, including two of them with Christian references and another with a Native American reference.
Some people are a little surprised by this reaction from the Constitution Party.
"To me, American values are tolerance of other people," Rick Silverman said.
[HPI note #2: The first reader comment at the KXLY article says, "Apparently North Idaho is just for Christians. So much for freedom of religion." A heated debate, not necessarily enlightening, ensues.]