Thousands Re-launch Mission Against Bare-Chested Sculpture

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — After the mayor of Overland Park announced that a controversial sculpture at the Overland Park Arboretum will remain, opponents said  they wouldn’t stop their crusade to have it removed. On Wednesday, leaders of a petition drive said they have collected 4,500 signatures. Phillip Crosby, director of the group, said the signatures will be filed with the court on Sept. 4 unless the Overland Park City Council acts to remove the statue.

As previously reported, the bronze sculpture by artist Yu Chang, called “Accept or Reject,” shows the torso of a partially nude woman taking a photo of herself with a camera phone.

A conservative group, the American Family Association, and an Overland Park mom, Jo Anne Hughes, have been leading the fight to remove the sculpture, claiming that the problem isn’t that the woman depicted in the sculpture is nude, but rather that the focal point of the piece is her breasts – the sculpture depicts her taking a picture of herself, which they say is suggestive of sexting.

On Tuesday, the group met with Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach and city officials to discuss the sculpture, but they say that they left the meeting disappointed.

"I'm ready to roll.  I wanna get this sculpture out, the fight's not over," said Hughes, who claims to have the support of over 2,700 people who've signed a petition to remove the statue.

Cosby, the Kansas and Missouri director for the AFA, says because they see it as obscene, it's not protected by the First Amendment - a position that Gerlach and other city officials disagree with.

"It's a matter of free speech, free expression," said city spokesman Sean Reilly. "As Mr. Cosby informed the mayor, there will be a determination of what community standards are."

Reilly says that the city tried to compromise with Hughes and the AFA by posting signs warning parental guidance is encouraged.

"She asked when she sent her initial email to the mayor, either to remove the art or at a minimum to post signs," said Reilly.

Hughes says by offering to compromise, the city is admitting there's a problem.

"That's an admittance that something is bad about that sculpture for kids," said Hughes, who says that she and the AFA are working on collecting 4,000 more signatures to get the issue brought before a Johnson County grand jury.

The city says that they plan to one day move the statue to an international sculpture park, but they're waiting for funds to be donated to build the sculpture park.

Hughes and the AFA say that they expect it to take six to eight weeks to get enough signatures collected to take the issue to the grand jury.

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