When New Zealanders opened a $250 million national museum in the capital, Wellington, in February, much was made of the museum's name Te Papa, Maori for "Our Place."
But one of the museum's first exhibits, Virgin in a Condom, a three-inch statue of the Virgin Mary sheathed in a transparent condom, has stretched the credibility of "Our Place" and caused a furor among Christians.
The outcry saw daily protests outside the museum, an attack on the statue itself, a national television debate, and a 33,000-signature petition demanding the exhibit's removal. Te Papa officials refused to budge, and the exhibit remained on display until April 26 as planned. Another museum exhibit, a picture of The Last Supper with a bare-breasted, female Jesus, sparked further outrage. Catholics, joined by evangelical Christians and Muslims, led the outcry.
Christian Heritage Party leader Graham Capill says the museum took great care to observe Maori spiritual mores but ran roughshod over Christian values. "It's increasingly clear that any faith or belief is acceptable in New Zealand, except for the Christian faith," Capill says. "Te Papa needs to be not only culturally sensitive, but also spiritually sensitive."1