Australian Anger at Religious Art

August 31, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: BBC News

A print of Osama Bin Laden which morphs into Jesus, and a statue of the Virgin Mary covered in a burqa have sparked furious debate in Australia.

The two pieces have gone on display at the National Art School in Sydney after being entered for the prestigious Blake Prize for Religious Art.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard called them "gratuitously offensive".

Aboriginal artist Shirley Purdie eventually won the $A15,000 (£6,000) prize for her Stations of the Cross.

The offending pieces were among 500 entries for the competition, which was established in 1951.

Mr Howard, in an interview with Australia's Daily Telegraph, said: "The choice of such artworks is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians".

"It's really unfortunate people take liberties with the Christian faith they wouldn't take with other religions," added Glynis Quinlan, a spokeswoman for the Australian Christian Lobby.