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Counselor Fights Removal of Jesus Statue

A Greensboro spiritual counselor is considering suing the city after workers confiscated a 6-foot-tall, half-ton statue of Jesus from his front yard.
( [email protected] ) Aug 28, 2006 12:36 PM EDT

GREENSBORO, Ga. (AP) - A Greensboro spiritual counselor is considering suing the city after workers confiscated a 6-foot-tall, half-ton statue of Jesus from his front yard.

City officials say the life-size statue violates zoning restrictions ordinance and threatens public safety.

Owner Nickie Marks, though, calls it an expression of his faith. He and his attorney argue that by removing the statue, the city is violating his free speech rights.

"My whole thing is that I just want my statue back in my yard," Marks said. "Why would they move it? It wasn't hurting anybody. People actually liked it - they have been very supportive of our case."

The statue was removed from Marks' front yard and kept as evidence at a city storage lot. It was returned to him last week, covered with red clay and a broken hand.

"It really was like someone just taking a Bible and throwing in the dirt," he said of the statue, which he's since moved to his back yard.

Greensboro City Manager Larry Postell said the city has an ordinance prohibiting signs without words in residential areas. The ordinance was meant to keep business owners from welding cars to the tops of large poles as advertisements, but he said it also applies to Marks' statue.

"He's a spiritual counselor, and he's got a spiritual icon in his front yard," Postell said. "I think it constitutes a sign."

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