Following Lawsuit Deltona Reverses Decision - Paintings Will be Displayed

Feb 17, 2006

Within hours after Lloyd Marcus filed a federal lawsuit in Orlando, Florida, against the City of Deltona, the acting City Manager/City Attorney, L. Roland Blossom, reversed his decision and will now allow the three paintings he censored because of their religious viewpoint.

The City of Deltona has allowed City employees and local citizens to display artwork to celebrate Black History Month. Marcus, a Deltona resident and President of the Deltona Arts and Historical Center, is a well-known artist, entertainer and composer. His artwork, which was displayed temporarily in the lobby of City Hall, was censored by the City after Mr. Blossom ordered their removal due to their religious viewpoint. One picture displays a partially covered Bible and church sign. Another picture depicts a festive New Orleans funeral, and a third shows a Christmas basket. The paintings are a published series reflecting Marcus’s childhood in his father’s Baltimore church. 

On February 9, Liberty Counsel sent a letter to Mr. Blossom stating that the paintings did not violate the First Amendment. Mr. Blossom insisted that he was concerned over church and state issues. On February 14, Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to Mayor Dennis Mulder and Mr. Blossom requesting the paintings be displayed by noon the next day. This demand was rejected. Mr. Blossom instead offered to open a new room in the Commissioners’ chambers, which is typically off limits to the public outside of scheduled meetings, to display Marcus’s paintings. Liberty Counsel rejected this offer, calling it a “separate but equal” treatment of free speech. It is not right to segregate Marcus’s paintings from the other community paintings solely because of their religious viewpoint. This morning Liberty Counsel filed suit, in which it asked the Court to order Deltona to repost the paintings alongside the others. Mr. Blossom has now reversed his decision and has agreed to repost the censored paintings. Mr. Marcus was thrilled with the news. Due to the lateness in the day, he will bring the paintings back to City Hall Monday morning, where they will be displayed throughout the rest of Black History Month.

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated: "I am pleased that the City of Deltona did the right thing. We said from the beginning that this case could be easily resolved if the City corrected its mistake and reposted the paintings. Religious speech is not an orphan to the First Amendment. An important part of black history for Lloyd Marcus is the church where his father pastored a congregation from a storefront building. Black history cannot be separated from its religious history, and the First Amendment certainly does not require the two to be at odds."

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