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An image of Jesus known as “The Divine Mercy” that is annually displayed in Chicago’s Daley Plaza around Easter is believed to have been vandalized for the first time in its 8-year history this week.
Wednesday morning several holes were discovered punctured through the bottom of the 10-foot tall canvass around the image of Jesus’ feet, and the glass over four posters related to the image was shattered.
“It looks like someone took a bat to the glass,” said Jocelyn Floyd, attorney for the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based socially conservative legal group that defends the rights of groups and individuals across the country to express their religious beliefs in public forums.
Chicago Police News Affairs officer Thomas Sweeney said they have no report of police being called to the area for the incident. He also said there is no police report on file. Floyd said that she is waiting for the founder of “The Divine Mercy” project, who spearheads the annual display, to file the report.
A sister display of a 19-foot-tall cross as well as a counter-display from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that reads “Keep State and Religion Separate” were left untouched, Floyd said, which makes her think that the annual religious display of “Jesus in Daley Plaza” was specifically targeted.
“It definitely takes effort to do that,” Floyd said. “It’s not something… that anyone in the spur of the moment would think, “OK let’s do vandalism’ because they’re drunk.’”
Most of the time the organization faces opposition from the government or other groups that try to stop them from posting religious displays in public forums, which the group counters with the public forum doctrine that states that one cannot forbid speech based on its content, Floyd said. The display by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that criticizes the annual Easter display has rightfully presented their opinion according to their first amendment rights, she said.
“They have entered their conversation and added their voice to the dialogue,” Floyd said. “Whoever did this violence said, ‘I am not going to enter the dialogue. I am simply going to destroy it. That’s an affront to free speech. That’s an affront to every citizen who wishes to express themselves.”
Floyd said that the display will stay up the full course of nine days as planned until April 28.
Tribune reporter Carlos Sadovi contributed.