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A controversial painting of a U.S. map going down a toilet—created by a lawyer and displayed in the California Department of Justice—has state Republicans calling for its removal. Berkeley, Calif., lawyer Stephen Pearcy’s artwork is titled T’anks to Mr. Bush! The painting’s title runs down the left side of the piece. Pearcy was not available for comment. The exhibit, A Creative Merger: Lawyers and Artists, opened at the state Department of Justice on July 15, and is hosted by California Lawyers for the Arts, as well as state Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s office. California Lawyers for the Arts is a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to artists and arts organizations in the state. “It is an honor to co-host this powerful exhibit and display the talent of our legal community,” Lockyer said in a July 12 news release. “Creative expression stimulates freedom of thought, appreciation for diversity and opens new windows onto the world in which we live. The collected works of these fine artists -and lawyers-achieve these worthwhile objectives with style and beauty.” Lockyer’s office is responsible for bringing the art exhibit from the Sacramento County Public Law Library to the state Department of Justice cafeteria. The exhibit was originally sponsored by California Lawyers for the Arts, said Nathan Barankin, Lockyer’s communications director. To answer the first show, Move America Forward, an organization “committed to supporting America’s efforts to defeat terrorism and supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces,” according to its Web site, organized an art show and rally to publicize its views on July 28. The exhibit-titled I Love America-was scheduled to take place in front of the California Department of Justice. Move America Forward Chairwoman Melanie Morgan called Pearcy’s painting “juvenile . . . .It’s not what I consider art, but I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder.” However, the organization does not believe the painting should be taken from the exhibit. “We are holding the display in front of the [California] Department of Justice to let the rest of the world know we are proud of our American ideals and we are a great country and the left point of view doesn’t represent everybody,” Morgan said. “We do not believe [ T'anks to Mr. Bush!] should be removed and we never called for censorship or removal. “They have the perfect right to post whatever type of art they want,” Morgan said. “We’d rather it be in a private museum but we just want to make the point that we are going to represent with our own artwork, too.” Should not be displayed? California Republican Party spokeswoman Karen Hanretty said that even though Pearcy is entitled to his political opinions, the painting should not be displayed. “Obviously, the right to free speech is one of America’s most important rights,” Hanretty said in a recent news release. “Does that mean that Lockyer is obligated to display this man’s painting in the Office of the Attorney General? Of course not.” Barankin said removal of Pearcy’s painting before the exhibit’s end would be unconstitutional. “We believe it is contrary to the First Amendment-and it would be censorship-to remove a piece of art from an exhibit on the basis of its content,” he said. He said the Attorney General’s Office believes “the demonstration and the counterdemonstration underscore the AG’s rationale for not censoring the exhibit by removing individual pieces of art.”

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