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    Posted March 16, 2012 by
    Encinitas, California
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    This morning, I am sorry to report, the Friends of the Surfing Madonna received bad news. The San Diego Union/Tribune newspaper is reporting that plans were afoot to place the beloved Surfing Madonna mosaic at the entrance to Moonlight Beach but have been wiped out by the state of California.


    The State Parks Department is expected to "deny a request from the city of Encinitas to display on a patch of land at the entrance to Moonlight Beach Park the famous stained-glass mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard."


    The state of California owns the coastal parkland but leases it to the city of Encinitas on a long term basis.


    In a meeting Thursday, March 15, officials from the California state parks informed the city of Encinitas that its request would be denied. The reason given: rejection primarily on "constitutional grounds."


    Superintendent Clay Phillips, who manages the North County area of San Diego state parks, said "the agency received an opinion from the state Attorney General’s office last week that “clearly stated” that placing the Surfing Madonna on public land would violate the no-preference clause in the California Constitution," according to the Union/Tribune report.


    The bureaucrats up in Sacramento concluded "that it is unconstitutional to display the piece at Moonlight Beach because it would give the appearance of government favoring one religion over another." Even though artist Mark Patterson has consistently said the Surfing Madonna image he created is an environmental message, not a religious icon.


    It has been a long & tortuous road for the mosaic's artist who affixed the 10-foot-by-10-foot colorful creation to the base of a train bridge on Encinitas Boulevard just east of South Coast Highway 101 last April.


    The beauteous Madonna, hanging ten on a surfboard with the inspiring message “Save the Ocean” down the side attracted hordes of fans & the curious. At the time, the city of Encinitas--a normally bohemian enclave of North County artists, a sprinkling of suburbanites & surfers, considered the artwork "graffiti." The U/T noted that "because (the Madonna) never went through the mandatory public-art review process, it was technically an illegal placement on city property."


    City officials were also concerned about the atheists & others who would come out of the woodwork--making waves over the wave-riding Guadalupe. These concerns--whether legitimate or not--over the displaying of a (so-called) religious symbol on public property seems to finally have caused the Madonna to, yet again seek out another acceptable site. As stated so many other times, Madonna artist Mark Patterson, who is not Catholic, maintained the Madonna message was always to "Save the Ocean."


    Patterson has since tried hard to work with Encinitas to preserve the mosaic. He came forward so it would not be damaged upon removal. The artist paid a fine & then formally submitted the piece to the city for review & asked for a placement approval at the entrance to Moonlight Beach. This locale was appropriate because it fit in with the artistic intent of the mosaic’s message.


    I was sitting in the audience that night when the Encinitas City Council approved the Madonna for that location on Jan. 25. The city then forwarded their request to the state. Patterson also agreed to either remove the piece from Moonlight Beach or defend any lawsuit--at his own cost-- should any citizen contend in court that it would be a religious symbol on public property. Patterson, who lives in nearby Leucadia, told the U/T on Thursday that he is optimistic the Surfing Madonna would find a new home.


    “We’ll come up with something that’s legal and also in Encinitas, & something that keeps everybody happy & make sure that the message still gets out there,” he said. Save the Ocean.


    Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks called it "a shame" that the state of California would deny the city’s request. To the Mayor's credit, he said his office would do "everything it can to find the mosaic a place to be displayed publicly."

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