This is what tyranny looks like: when a person of influence tries to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of society.
Meet Virginia Beach’s Ben Loyola. He wants to censor the art you get to see to make sure it’s his-flavor-of-Jesus approved.
Loyola is a member of the Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission and a former Republican candidate for state office. According to WAVY, he has contacted Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle, because what else do you do when you don’t like a piece of art but call in the lawyers.
This is the piece in question: “Rosie’s Tea Party,” by Mark Ryden, which is appearing in Virginia MOCA’s “Turn the Page” show. Loyola believes it is anti-Christian.
Calling in the state lawyers is an ironic tact to take, given Loyola’s conservative politics. What an absolutely awful use of taxpayer dollars, to force our Commonwealth’s Attorney to have to deal with something so trifling. You can’t fault a big, over-spending government when you’re the reactive, feet-stomping ideologue causing government to overspend.
Art is very clearly protected under the First Amendment. I worry, where will Loyola stop? If he’s willing to trample the Constitution in this instance, what’s next? After the First Amendment comes the Second Amendment…
He started with our art. Next is Ben Loyola going to come after our guns? I joke, but is there really such a difference between taking away someone’s firearms, which gun rights supporters consider a fundamental right to protect life, and taking away our art, our voice, our creativity, our soul searching, which is how we live?
Loyola’s stance of censorship is especially disappointing given his military background. I thought men like him were defending rights like free speech?
According to WAVY, “Loyola only cares about this because MOCA gets $120,000 in taxpayer money which is 26% of his commission’s budget.” Which is freaking terrifying. Forcing government spending to align with your ever-so-sensitive religious sensibilities is much closer to hell than any sort of freedom. People like Loyola call themselves patriots, but their bully moralizing makes them more like the tyrants our ancestors crossed the Atlantic Ocean to flea than the Founding Fathers.
If I can play junior psychologist for a moment, I wonder if what Loyola is truly uncomfortable with is how this art makes him re-examine his own faith. The history of Christianity is not clean. It’s not simple. And it’s not always the green fields and childhood puppies of the afterlife. As a confirmed Catholic guilt is our specialty, so I have already asked myself these questions, and I have come out on the other side with stronger faith for it.
But what’s doubly, triply, indubitably trifling is that LOYOLA DOESN’T EVEN GET THE ART.
“I am really not poking fun at religion,” the artist told Hi-Fructose in an article that appears in an edition of the magazine with this piece on the cover. “I am just looking at it in different ways.”
For now, the question remains how such an ideological extremist like Loyola ends up having a say over a city’s art.
And this weekend is the opening at MOCA, which received thousands of dollars of free publicity thanks to Loyola’s crusade against interesting art. Nice work, Ben. You’re killing it.
The opening party of the show is Saturday. For more info about that or the exhibition, click here.
Update: The National Coalition Against Censorship released a statement on this issue. Read the whole thing here, but in summary: “… as long as the government is funding the arts, it cannot fund ONLY art that expresses the viewpoints of government officials. In other words, the government may not fund art in a way that discriminates based on viewpoint.”