“Insist upon yourself. Be original.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Jesus statue project was primarily conceived by Helms, who asked Olivetti to help out. Helms, 18, says he was connecting to themes in the play, "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail," which was on the AP course reading list. The play examines, among other things, the 19th century writer Henry David Thoreau's act of civil disobedience in refusing to pay taxes to the U.S. government while it waged what he viewed as an immoral war in Mexico.
Thoreau was trying to point out hypocrisy by the U.S. government, Helms said, and the student in turn wanted to point out what he views as hypocrisy at Mount Abraham with regard to the constitutional separation of church and state.
The school asks students to say the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and has a permanent mural displaying Apollo, an ancient Greek God, Helms said. Yet it wouldn't allow him to display the Jesus statue. "My thesis was that the government and the administration of our school is often hypocritical in what they allow and what they do not allow."