Jesus ‘Looney Tunes’ painting removed from exhibit amid outcry for mocking Christianity

'Jesus Speaks to the Daughters of Jerusalem' by artist Philjames.
"Jesus Speaks to the Daughters of Jerusalem" by artist Philjames. | Philjames

A gallery in Sydney, Australia, has removed artwork depicting Jesus as a “Looney Tunes” character following an onslaught of complaints from people protesting that the painting mocks Christianity. 

The oil painting, titled “Jesus Speaks to the Daughters of Jerusalem,” depicts Jesus and other biblical figures with the faces of characters such as Goofy and Daffy Duck. It was removed from the Blake Prize exhibition at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in Sydney last Friday. 

Demands for its removal were sparked by a Catholic-led group known as Christian Lives Matter (CLM) and its founder Charlie Bakhos. The group is known for leading protests opposing same-sex marriage, abortion and trans ideology, according to the Herald. 

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“I’ve just gotten word that this shocking, disrespectful art mocking Jesus Christ has finally been removed,” Bakhos wrote on Facebook last week, two days before the eight-week exhibition was to end, according to The Guardian

Bakhos said the painting by 48-year-old artist Phil James, who also goes by Philjames, was “another cheap and low attempt at mocking Christianity here in Sydney,” he said.  

James, who grew up attending Sunday school but is not religious, according to the Guardian, was described by The Sydney Herald's art critic John McDonald as a "satirist and "humorist.”

McDonald said James' irreverent artwork doesn't only strike at Christianity, but hits out at “almost anything.” 

On Friday, Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun said the artwork should be taken down because it was causing offense to the religious community. 

“The Christian community — and many Muslims — take offense at Jesus Christ being portrayed as a 'Looney Tunes' character,” he told the Herald. “The right to free speech needs to be balanced with the right to practice your religion without fear, persecution or ridicule.” According to The Telegraph, 40% of Liverpool's population is comprised of residents who were born outside of Australia, and hail from countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. 

James told the outlet that he had received dozens of threatening messages following CLM's campaign to have his painting removed from the exhibit. 

“It’s really sad that it has come to this,” James told the Herald. 

Bakhos said in his Facebook post that he warned the Liverpool council that CLM was organizing "a few hundred people" to protest in person, to which the council responded by quickly ensuring the painting was taken down. 

“Within hours of posting this rubbish art mocking Christianity, hundreds and hundreds of you uniting by commenting, emailing and calling respectfully. I’ve just gotten word that this shocking disrespectful art mocking Jesus Christ has finally been removed,” Bakhos wrote.

James, however, indicated that not all commenters had been "respectful" because he was personally threatened with physical violence and was also concerned about the safety of the gallery's staff, The Telegraph reported.                                                     

The Blake Prize is a biennial exhibition that features contemporary artists worldwide who take on religious topics. The winner receives $35,000.

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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