The "Surfing Madonna," a stained-glass mosaic by Marc Patterson, is currently sitting in storage in Encinitas, instead of at the entrance to Moonlight State Beach where he wanted it to be.
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On Friday, the state Attorney General's Office decided against allowing the mosaic to be displayed on public lands, because its religious intent would violate the California Constitution's no preference clause.
Patterson has said he is spiritual, but is not religious. He also said there is no religious significance to the 10-foot-by-10-foot mosaic, which displays Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfing alongside the words "Save the Ocean."
"I didn't think that the religious imagery was religious," he said. "I thought of it as a cultural icon."
However, Patterson recently commented on a religious blog about how the Madonna had influenced the creation of the piece. He wrote he felt "completely inspired by Her," because the image of a surfing Madonna had appeared to him three times during the span of five years.
"I maybe could have stated it a little more clearly, what I was trying to say, but I was trying to respond to the concerns the folks on the blog were having," he said.
Partially as a result of the comments, the Attorney General's Office refused to allow the piece to be featured at Moonlight State Park. The Department of Parks and Recreation did not want to comment on the mural, but instead shared with 10News the response it initially gave to Patterson about his proposed location.
"The Attorney General clearly states that placement of this mosaic on state property would violate the California Constitution," the statement read. "We are unable to accommodate your request."
The Surfing Madonna first appeared under a railroad bridge in Encinitas on Good Friday last year, but was declared graffiti by city officials and removed two months later, at a loss of approximately $6,000 for Patterson.
Critics of the attorney general's decision on Friday have said the mosaic's religious tones may not be solid grounds for refusal, since there is a 30-foot religious mural in Chicano Park near downtown San Diego, which is state property.
"With the surf culture and the art culture that exists here, there is a different mentality. There's this receptivity to what was being presented," Patterson said.
The Encinitas City Council has unanimously approved that the mural should go up somewhere in the city, but has not yet determined where it will be displayed.
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