A student painting that depicts the Statue of Liberty wearing a Muslim hijab, displayed in congressman Lou Correa’s Santa Ana office, is being attacked as an unpatriotic violation of the separation of church and state by members of We the People Rising, a Claremont-based activist group that advocates stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
The group, including several Orange County participants, has asked without success that Correa remove the painting hanging with other finalists from the Democratic congressman’s student art competition.
Because of the complaint, Correa said he asked the House Office of Legislative Counsel for advice and was told there was no legal issue. That has not appeased the activists, who are tentatively planning a Sept. 11 protest at Correa’s district office.
“It’s a bad example for our congressman,” said Orange resident Mike McGertrick, an activist with We the People Rising. “He shouldn’t have anything religious in his office. … I would like to see our Congress people be right-down-the-line patriotic.”
McGertick went farther in his condemnation during a July 3 meeting with Correa’s district director, Claudio Gallegos, calling the hanging of the painting in the office “reprehensible and disrespectful.”
“In this day and age, we want to see that our elected officials are the utmost of patriotism,” McGertick says in a video the group recorded and posted on YouTube.
Correa sees nothing objectionable in the painting, which comes at a time of controversy over Donald Trump’s efforts to ban the entry to the U.S. of people from Muslim countries and about the treatment of Muslims in this country.
Correa said it was important to not remove the painting because of a few complaints.
“This is an art competition for our high school students,” he said. “I want out students to express themselves through art. To take it down would signal that this is not welcome and that would send the wrong message.”
Nearly all House members hold the competition in their districts, with the winners displayed in a Capitol Building corridor. Correa’s district winner, selected by his staff and local artists, was a photograph of a mural featuring Mexican American veterans from WWII. The Statue of Liberty painting finished fourth.
McGertick and Robin Hvidston, executive director for We the People Rising, both said that their complaint was not anti-Muslim — that they would have had the same concerns if the Statue of Liberty had been depicted with a cross or a Star of David.
Hvidston said the idea to hold a protest on Sept. 11, the day memorializing the Twin Tower terrorist attacks of 2001, came from The Remembrance Project, a group that bills itself as “A Voice for Victims Killed by Illegal Aliens.”
Correa’s office would not release the name or school of the female artist responsible for the painting, 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.
Hvidston condemned the threats and said that her group’s issue was not with the painting itself, but with its placement in a congressional office.
“We have absolutely nothing against this young lady,” Hvidston said. “She’s obviously very talented and we wish her the best.”
If you are in Luis Correa’s district or enter a zip code that is, you can contact him using this email form. Or you can call him out on Twitter @RepLouCorrea and Fakebook. Here’s a picture that better depicts Correa and his ilk:
“The art implies that we’re all subjugated, and we are not, and that we all accept it, and we are not. It’s offensive to every freedom-loving American and immigrant, by the way, who is yearning to be free, who escaped the most brutal and extreme ideology on the face of the earth, the sharia.”