Gwinnett Library: Joel Osteen’s Books On Our Shelves? OK. Painting Of Him On Display? No Way.

Gwinnett County Library System allows local artists to display their works at their libraries. Local artist Ralph Beach displayed his paintings of several evangelic preachers including Joel Osteen. Everything was fine until someone complained. Beach was then asked to remove his art ahead of the scheduled removal date of August 11.

Both the community and local artists have enjoyed and benefited from the art program at the library,” said Barbara Spruill, branch services division director for Gwinnett County Public Library. “We started the program so that the community could experience the work of local artists in a neutral environment. … The library strives to present the community with a broad perspective. What has happened with Mr. Beach is unfortunate. The scope of this display was not realized until it was fully installed.”

Beach doesn’t only create religious works — he paints nature and people as well.

“They said I could put something else up, but now I don’t think I want to,” he said. “Now I’m asking, ‘What can I put up?’ What if I wanted to do all pictures from the Holocaust or slavery? What then? Where does the censorship end? Art is supposed to evoke emotions.

Of course, the library system has a number of Osteen’s books available for your reading pleasure.

Was Gwinnett County Libraries right or wrong in making Beach remove his art?


  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “Was Gwinnett County Libraries right or wrong in making Beach remove his art?”

    WRONG! Dead wrong.

    Since when did the seemingly especially chipper Joel Osteen become a controversial or offensive figure?

    If the Gwinnett County Library System doesn’t want religiously-inspired artworks to be displayed or submitted then they should incorporate that into their policy and apply it equally across all religions.

    But a ban on all religiously-inspired artworks do not appear to be apart of their current policy so they are clearly in the wrong for invoking a policy on religiously-inspired artworks that clearly does not currently exist.

    It seems that by trying to cater to the offended sensibilities of one selfish Atheist they may have started a needless controversy with millions of Christians.

  2. James says:

    I don’t think this is a religious rights issue. I’d prefer to frame the issue this way: What sort of grown man spends his time painting portraits of Joel Osteen? And do we want that type of man–or his artwork–anywhere near a public library?

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Hey, the Gwinnett Public Library System thought that it was perfectly okay until someone complained, presumably out of offense to the religious theme of the artwork.

      Besides, I can think of much worse things that someone could spend their time painting than a chipper televangelist with a popular Sunday TV show.

  3. James says:

    I hear you, and I agree that this was a result of some overly-sensitive person’s complaints.

    But let’s be fair–if it were an innocuous portrait of the prophet Muhammad hanging on the library wall, there’d be a line of angry Gwinnett County Christians a mile long demanding that it be removed.

  4. John Vestal says:

    I think it would be quite a stretch to infer that a public library’s display of artwork that happens to be a collection of paintings of preachers is in any form or fashion an endorsement of any religion.

    That said, I hope that pic of Osteen wasn’t in the children’s section.

  5. Self_Made says:

    My stepmother works in Gwinnett county. She was told that she could not display a photo of the POTUS at her desk because they’s received complaints that it “disrupts the workplace”. I think that violates her rights, but it’s a private company so…

    Still…I think this is ridiculous. It’s a private citizen’s artwork for crying out loud. But I’m willing to bet those outraged about this are the same types who would complain about my stepmother’s photograph.

  6. seenbetrdayz says:

    And thus, the grey-area difference between ‘establishment’ of religion and ‘association’ with religion rears its head again.

  7. benevolus says:

    I generally try to avoid slippery slope arguments, but this is one of them for me. It’s much easier to have a policy of “if someone complains we’ll probably remove it” than it is to try to define a policy that allows it without allowing all kinds of other craziness.

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