Monday, September 20, 2004

Clinton depiction called blasphemy

Artist's version of 'St. Clinton' has priest riled

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - An artist says his depiction of former President Clinton as "Saint Clinton" was meant to be funny and provoke thought, but a Catholic priest wasn't amused.

In a letter sent home with 667 students last week at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church's parish school, the Rev. Donald Hill advised that any lunch boxes, notebooks or shirts bearing the image are banned from school - and that any discovered would be confiscated.

The Clinton portrait by artist Scott Ritcher is modeled after traditional "Sacred Heart of Jesus" images. It shows the former president "in a saintly pose with a halo, burning heart, flowing robe, and empathetic expression," according to a news release.

"Personally, I consider this as blasphemous, heretical and most offensive," wrote Hill, who leads the parish.

School officials said that no children had shown up with the image and that the ban was sparked by Hill's reading about the portrait.

"It's meant to be humorous," Ritcher told the newspaper in an interview, and to spark thought about religion and politics.

Ritcher, 34, a writer, graphic designer and artist, created the image last year to accompany a current events Web site. The image proved popular, and he began selling it on lunch boxes, posters and other items.

He said he's received nasty e-mails from people offended. "Myself and many others are just as offended with politicians who make reference to God in matters of policy," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville said she hadn't heard of the image causing an uproar at any other parochial schools.

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