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Paintings removed from San Bernardino building after nudity complaints

September 27, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Three paintings on display this week at the San Bernardino County administration building have been taken down after complaints about nudity.

"If this were an art gallery it would be one thing, but it's a government building and people come here to work and to do business, and we don't feel they should be confronted with images that offend them," said David Wert with the County of San Bernardino.

One painting by artist Armando Aleman and two others by Efren Montiel were part of a display honoring National Hispanic Heritage Month.

This week, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the county, claiming removing the paintings was censorship and violated the artists' rights to freedom of expression. The organization wants the paintings back on display.

"The government doesn't now get to say, 'Gee, we've seen it, and someone's complained about it and they don't like it so we're taking it down,'" said Peter Eliasberg with the ACLU.

The National Coalition Against Censorship also sent a letter and issued a statement to Eyewitness News which reads, in part:

"San Bernardino County should show more respect for its citizens, who can make their own decisions to look or not to look at art and not yield to a heckler's veto."

One artist who spoke to Eyewitness News said he censored his own artwork after learning about the three other paintings to ensure his would remain on display.

Eyewitness News showed the paintings to several people. Aleman's painting shows a man's nude backside kneeling in front of a sun. The others by Montiel depict women in the nude.

"If it is artistic, I mean it's not like it's pornography, but I can see how they'd be worried about having it in a public building," said Jenny Aguilar of Yucaipa.

As for the artist themselves, they have not responded to requests for comment. And for now, the paintings will not be on display.

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