School District Discontinues ‘Piss Christ’ After Parents Fight Back

A high school in California listened to parents and students alike after they stopped using an image that depicted a crucifix submerged in urine as part of a class curriculum. This comes after lawsuits were filed to remove the image to prevent a hostile environment for Christians.

The high school, Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, California, which is part of the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD), used the infamous image as part of a required Theory of Knowledge course for its International Baccalaureate Diploma, according to attorneys with the Thomas More Society.

The infamous image, which is called ‘Immersion (Piss Christ)’ and is described by artist Andres Serrano as a ‘small plastic crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine,’ debuted in 1987 and immediately garnered backlash after it was revealed that the image was created with grant money from the taxpayer-funded National Endowment for the Arts.

Initial pressure to remove the image from school curriculum began when the Thomas More Society, a Catholic rights law firm that has been involved in many supreme court cases, wrote a letter to the school district on May 6 in which they said:

[I]ncluding the “Piss Christ” image as a discussion topic in the Theory
of Knowledge curriculum is an inappropriate, direct attack on a student’s religious beliefs. The
image is meant to shock and harass devout Catholic students and other Christians.

Students like Mr. Hayward have a right to be free from harassment and discrimination on
the basis of their religious beliefs. As stated by the California Supreme Court, even if presenting
“Piss Christ” to students is speech, the government’s free speech rights do not extend to
harassment.“ To the contrary, as noted above, we conclude that it is clear from the high court’s
decisions … that the First Amendment permits imposition of civil liability for past instances of
pure speech that create a hostile [ ] environment.

Thus, the application of the below principles to the present situation leads to a single
conclusion. “[A] local government [can]not subsidize an exhibition of Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss
Christ,’ a photo depicting a crucifix immersed in the artist’s urine,” because this “would constitute
hate speech in violation of the government’s constitutional obligation not to discriminate against
religious groups,” including “the restrictions imposed by the Equal Protection Clause, as well as
the First Amendment’s religion clauses.”

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According to the law firm, on May 22, the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s lawyer responded to the Thomas More Society but did not say the district would permanently stop using the image.

Parents upset at the inclusion of “Piss Christ” in the curriculum then showed up at the public comment portion of an SBUSD school board meeting on May 23, and those who challenged the principal and threatened a lawsuit were met with applause, according to a video.

A day after the school board meeting, the school’s attorney wrote a follow-up letter stating, ‘We disagree that use of the image is illegal under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment or otherwise.’ But then they clarified:

However, the District recognizes that use of the image invokes hurtful responses among many in the community. 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.

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John Hayward, a student at the school who was one of the people represented by the law firm, reacted with victory, telling news outlets that it was ‘a small yet significant victory for our Lord.’ He continued to say:

Having this sacrilege taken down from a school setting means a lot to all those who helped call for its removal in a time when hate toward the Catholic faith is widespread. Prior to contacting the Thomas More Society, it was a merely symbolic movement, Until we had the weight of the letter, our concerns would have been, and indeed were, brushed off by administrators who proudly defended their blasphemous curriculum as some sort of ‘human right.’

Other stories you may want to read:

Anti-Christian Southern Poverty Law Center Mauled-Designate Moms for Liberty a ‘Hate Group’

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