Doubtful, especially when the Jesus in question is a seven-foot statue on a ten-foot plinth on a bluff with precipitous drop-off into said river, as is the case with Tuan Pham’s statue in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He wants to rezone the property to make it okay to leave his “legacy” in place to stand overlooking the city but City Hall wants him to move the damn thing away from the edge. According to current codes, nothing should be built within 40 feet of the drop-off.
“I am a little guy. I want to do something that will stay for 1,000 years,” said Pham, 76. His backyard has a sweeping view of the capitol city.
His yard also has a statue of Liberty, a couple “leaping dolphins, a Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and tropical fish.” Closer to the Jesus is more yard clutter, Ladies of Fatima and Lourdes, flowers and concrete ornaments of “doe-eyed-children playing with bunnies.” And in case there’s question over whether or not he thinks of himself as American these days, he hoists two flags as well.
Now Pham will make his case for a variance for his Jesus statue to the City Council at a public hearing Wednesday. As part of his appeal, he submitted to City Hall 45 signatures from neighbors who support his variance request. He said he knows of no opposition. Pham noted his neighbor’s shed is closer to the bluff than his statue.
An anonymous complaint came into the city last November and an inspector told Pham he was out of compliance. The Zoning Board rejected Pham’s request for a variance, determining there was no “undue hardship” to support Pham’s request and that: “The circumstances were created by the landowner.”
He ordered and assembled the marble Jesus himself, modeled after a larger statue in his homeland of Vietnam and is very proud of it. The whole yard sounds tacky beyond all get out to me. I’m actually surprised there’s only been one documented complaint about it. The whole thing starts to sound like it’s an eyesore.
former Minneapolis Deputy City Attorney Mike Norton, now practicing law at Kennedy and Graven law firm, said such requests involve numerous competing interests and are tricky for cities. For one, he said, the council must consider past practice – whether intrusions have been allowed in the setback and whether Pham could put Jesus elsewhere in his yard.
Also, Jesus may have extra protection from zoning laws. Norton said Pham can argue the statue is a protected First Amendment exercise of his free speech and religion.
In any event, Jesus isn’t likely to move out soon.
“This will probably go to federal court,” Norton said. “There’s always somebody willing to take these things on.”
Sadly yes. Anytime anyone feels their religion has been trod on by the big bad secularists, they’ll bring their hissy fit to the professionals who’ll gladly gobble up all the media attention they’ll get from it. What a world we’ve created for ourselves.