My letter sent to the BYU Daily Universe:
I have a simple question for BYU…what in the heck is going on over there?! I am an artist who has sold his work at the BYU Bookstore for many years. But in light of recent events, I cannot in good conscious show my art there any longer.
A couple of years ago I decided to paint a picture that takes a stand for something that matters to me and to many Americans. The title of the picture is “One Nation Under God.” It depicts Christ standing among many patriots of the past while holding the US Constitution.
Just as our country is divided now on the issues, so goes this painting. It has been extremely popular at the BYU Bookstore, but despite its success, it was pulled from the store recently because the Vice President over the Bookstore was “uncomfortable” with the painting. It was actually pulled down last November, but was put back up immediately after Channel Two News showed up suddenly to do a story on possible censorship at BYU. Why is this painting, which is supported by church doctrine, (D&C 101:80) such a taboo image to display at BYU? Why censor a painting like this? Is it pornographic? Does it incite civil unrest? No. Go look around the bookstore, you’ll find far more provocative political books than my paintings. The problem in our country today is that many Americans won’t stand up for something if it makes them “uncomfortable.”
Events leading to the censorship of One Nation Under God at the BYU Bookstore
1. August 2010, BYU Art Department Manager, Val Ugolini, suddenly resigns over issues regarding “One Nation Under God.”
2. Bookstore pulled down my paintings in November of 2010. One faculty member objected to the painting, felt that it should not hang unless an alternative liberal painting also hung.
3. Channel Two News does a story on this incident and BYU receives hundreds of phone calls and e-mails. Dave Hunt stops Daily Universe from running a story on the incident.http://connect2utah.com/search-fulltext?nxd_id=114716
4. Private meetings held. I am asked to not talk with the press, they claim all was a misunderstanding, apologies given and good faith agreement offered. All was good again. (BYU Bookstore Director Roger Reynolds, BYU Assistant VP Dave Hunt)
5. Bryan Evans BYU Administrative Vice President cancels my invitation to speak at BYU OPAC Conference because he was “uncomfortable” with me presenting about One Nation Under God.
6. Suddenly told April 18, 2011 by the BYU Bookstore managers that the “Presidential Committee” had decided back in December, weeks before the agreement with Bookstore director, to take down the One Nation Under God but had not taken action... now the picture will no longer be hung.
7. After it is announced that art would not be hung, BYU Bookstore Director denies existence of Presidential committee and says it is a bookstore decision. I feel that the January agreement with Bookstore Director was deceptive.
8. April 21,2011, Jon McNaughton decides to pull out the rest of his artwork due to lack of trust with BYU Bookstore and the BYU Administration.
Click here to view the painting: http://www.mcnaughtonart.com/artwork/view_zoom/?artpiece_id=353
I sent President Samuelson the following letter after my invitation to speak at the BYU OPAC Conference last March was cancelled:
“Has Liberalism so infected this university that speakers can be invited to speak about the truths of Darwinism, but a simple artist who wishes to speak about the Constitution and its importance in America is too controversial? I am very troubled and would appreciate an explanation.”
His response included, “Consequently, they have concluded that their conference is not the proper forum for such a presentation and they have the support of the BYU administration. While we believe your accusations about “Liberalism” at BYU are unfounded and unsupported in fact, (emphasis added)
Although BYU is undoubtedly a conservative school to deny any Liberalism exists is astonishing. Go to the following links:
Darwinism Conference at BYU: http://sciencebysteve.net/?p=654
BYU CollegeDemocrats http://byudemocrats.org/
BYU professor Bill Bradshaw on the Biological Origins of homosexuality http://mormonstories.org/?p=1158
A BYU Student blogs about her experience in a lecture on Evolution in a BYU class:http://godlessatbyu.blogspot.com/2010/10/evolution-debate-at-byu.html
Personally, I think that a university like BYU should discuss all ideas as long as they don’t go against anything contrary to the honor code. But to deny that Liberalism exists at BYU is not true.