A group of California residents called We The People Rising are freaking out because a congressman won’t take down a painting that features the Statue of Liberty wearing a hijab from one of his district offices, the Orange County Register reported Thursday.
The painting is on display in Representative Luis Correa’s Santa Ana, CA, district office. It won fourth place in Correa’s district in the annual House of Representatives Artistic Discovery Contest for high school artists.
In a letter to the congressman–who is a Democrat–as well as on their website and in YouTube videos, the group claims that the painting should be taken down on the basis of the separation of church and state.
But Correa told the Orange County Register that he will not take it down just because a few people complained.
“You take it in the context of a lady, probably a Muslim American — with all that’s going on, she’s a proud American,” Correa told the Register. “That’s what it says to me.”
The group met with a staffer about a month ago to discuss their concerns. While they did discuss the separation of church and state from time to time, it was clear there were other things on their mind.
“You guys have a picture out in front of your office with a Statue of Liberty wearing a hijab which I find reprehensible and disrespectful,” one of the constituents tells the staffer at one point in the video of the meeting. “You know, we have dead [the man is pointing to a wall of what appears to be photos of people in military uniforms] men up here that I’m going to guess that a large portion of them died in the Middle East and you got some filthy picture like that that and I find it more than a little bit insulting.”
“When you put the Muslim–you know, hijab–on the Statue of Liberty, that implies that we welcome Syrian refugees and all that,” another man explained to the staffer. “The problem is, it’s not possible to vet them because there is no database that you can refer to. You can take their fingerprints, you can take their DNA, but if there is no fingerprint database then you have no idea who’s coming into the country.”
Their entire conversation is captured, unedited, in the video below:
The Register reports that Correa reached out to the House Office of Legislative Counsel about the complaints. According to the paper, the office told Correa there wasn’t a legal issue to be concerned about.
According to the newspaper, the congressman’s office is withholding the artist’s name and school “citing unspecified threats made to his office that are being investigated by the Capitol Police and a request by the police not to release information that could jeopardize the artist’s safety.”
The Register says that the group–unhappy that the painting is still hanging in the congressman’s office–is considering scheduling a protest on September 11 of this year.