At first, a BBC report about the tallest ceramic ever to rise in England came across as a curiosity. After all, when you think of ceramic, pottery comes to mind, not a colossus.

But the curiosity turned into a controversy when church leaders in the town displaying the colossus (a 38-foot-tall statue of a woman) called it “an offense to God.” (More about this in a moment).

'Earth Goddess'

The statue by ceramicist Sandy Brown titled “Earth Goddess” will be installed later this year in the Cornwall town of St. Austell. The artist told BBC that the town once boasted “a thriving clay industry” beginning in 1740 and that her statue is meant to celebrate that history, and hopefully regenerate the industry.

As for choosing the figure of a woman, Brown sees the subject meriting celebration, too. "We have all these sculptures by well-known male artists who are doing really powerful work. Lets have some presence of the female as well."

One of those male sculptors Brown cited was Anish Kapoor, who caused a stir with his 196-foot-tall steel tube installed in the garden of the Versailles palace – home of the 18th-century French queen Marie Antoinette.

That factoid about the wife of Louis XVI may explain why Kapoor described the cavernous tube as "the vagina of the queen coming into power."

Brown stresses the lack of power for women. "My mother was criticized by her parents for being a girl. They were farmers, they wanted sons.

And my mother was never able to celebrate being female, so I think it's about time that we did."

Likely that’s why Brown imagined her statue with outstretched arms – nearly 20 feet long – as if to welcome her gender into the world of large-scale sculpture.

Idol worship?

But the town’s church leaders objected in a letter to St.

Austell town council claiming that Brown’s statue was “offensive to God” and called for it to be removed.

Can it be that the outstretched arms of “Earth Goddess” reminds the churchmen of the outstretched arms of “The Redeemer” in Rio de Janeiro, and view Brown’s rendition as blasphemy?

But one of the signatories of the letter, Rev Pete Godfrey of the Light and Life Church, said that the disapproval of the statue had nothing to do with what it looked like.

The worry is that “Earth Goddess” will become an idol: “We see very clearly laid out by God that we are to have no other gods and we are not to make idols, which is essentially a statue that represents another god.”

Richard Pears, a town councilor who was mayor when Brown’s sculpture was being planned, told the press that the churchmen were behaving in a “medieval” manner.

Rev Godfrey’s view reflects Biblical teaching. Unless Pears sees the Good Book as Gothic. That said, the churchmen’s concern about deities standing in their street would be better taken if there weren’t a slew of statues of gods and goddesses at the Vatican Museum, such as the god Apollo in a martial pose and the goddess of good fortune, the “Venus Felix.”

The Vatican

If the Pope isn’t concerned about all the deities on view at the Vatican, surely the church leaders in St.

Austell shouldn’t worry about Brown’s statue of a mythological deity in Cornwall. It’s hard to imagine people bowing down to this thing.

By the way, one of the Vatican statues – “Artemis,” the ancient Greek goddess of the hunt, with arms outstretched, looks a bit like Brown’s “Earth Goddess.”

Of course, Brown could end the whole controversy by simply re-name her statue. How about “I Am Woman,” after the old Helen Reddy song that starts, “I am woman, hear me roar/In numbers too big to ignore.” Such words would fit Brown’s intent better than “Earth Goddess.”