A statue of Jesus Christ with an erection at an art exhibition has caused predictable uproar among Christians.
Artist Terence Koh doctored the traditional 30cm (1ft) high statue of Jesus to be the provocative centrepiece of his display of 74 plaster models, entitled Gone, Yet Still .
Visitors to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead and church leaders have accused gallery officials and Koh of showing disrespect to the Christian faith.
Rev Christopher Warren, a Roman Catholic priest at St Mary's Cathedral in Newcastle, condemned the work of art: For Christians, the image of Jesus is very special and to interpret it in a sexualised way is an affront to what we hold dear .
While Jesus was a human being in every way, to portray him in this way will offend.'
Beijing-born Koh, who was raised in Vancouver, Canada before moving to New York, has become known as 'Asian punk boy' because his artistic themes tend to focus on punk and pornography.
A spokesman for the Baltic said all graphic exhibits carried a public advisory notice in both guidebooks and the gallery space itself.
The exhibition runs until January 20 as part of the Zabludowicz Collection.
A leading art gallery is being taken to court over claims that it outraged public decency by displaying a statue depicting Christ with an erection.
The sculpture was the most provocative item in an exhibition at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.
Despite signs warning of the exhibition's explicit nature, the gallery received complaints.
A private prosecution has now been launched and the first hearing in what could prove a landmark case has been set for September.
Legal documents claim that the gallery has both offended public decency and breached Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. The maximum penalty for outraging public decency is six months' imprisonment and a £5,000 fine.
The documents claim that the foot-high sculpture was ‘offensive and disgusting' and likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to Christians and those of other faiths.
Controversial: Chinese-born artist Terence Ko
Legal experts said yesterday that the hearing would be the first test of public decency legislation since the Government scrapped Britain's ancient blasphemy laws in May.
The prosecution has been launched by Emily Mapfuwa who read about the exhibition in newspapers. I don't think this gallery would insult Muslims in this way, so why Christians? she said.
Father Christopher Warren, of the Roman Catholic cathedral of St Mary's in Newcastle upon Tyne, said: For Christians the image of Jesus is very special and to interpret it in a sexualised way is an affront to what we hold dear.
Update: Jesus Dick in Court
4th September 2008
The case in now scheduled to be heard in Crown Court on 23rd September 2008
Emily Mapfuwa, the Christian who was so offended by a statue of Jesus with a penis that she decided to take the art gallery to court, never actually visited the exhibition in which it was displayed, a local radio station has confirmed.
Mapfuwa's lawyer, Michael Phillips of the Christian Legal Centre, was interviewed on BBC Radio Essex, where he was asked the question, Did Emily actually visit the exhibition?
He replied: Er, no. She didn't.
So how did Mapfuwa hear about the exhibit which so offended her deeply held religious beliefs? Unity at the Ministry of Truth suggests that, as the initial complaint was filed in January, it is likely to have been an article in The Sun entitled
Aroused ‘Jesus' Statue Outrage which caught the sensitive thing's eye. The trouble is, that story was illustrated with an entirely different artwork, from a completely different exhibition (in the Saatchi gallery, 2006, as it happens).
So, in effect, we have a Christian claiming to be offended by a statue that was never actually exhibited, in an exhibition that she never actually visited.
An art gallery will not face any legal action over nutter claims that it displayed an indecent statue of Jesus Christ.
The artwork was part of an exhibition at Gateshead's Baltic Centre featuring several plaster figures with erections.
A private prosecution was being brought by Christian group member Emily Mapfuw on the grounds the statue outraged public decency.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) stopped the action on Monday and said the gallery had no case to answer.
Nicola Reasbeck, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: The CPS has the right to take over a private prosecution and prosecute it ourselves, take it over and stop the case, or allow the private prosecution to continue.
Having considered the evidence in this case with great care, we are satisfied that there is no case to answer. We have taken into account all the circumstances, including the fact that there was no public disorder relating to the exhibition
and that there was a warning at the entrance to the gallery about the nature of the work on display.
The case has therefore been discontinued.
The statue was part of Baltic's September 2007 to January 2008 exhibition by Chinese-born artist Terence Koh, Gone, Yet Still.