Lady Liberty

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Every American is guaranteed the right of freedom of speech. Exhibiting that right can often be a slippery slope, given the current nature of our country in the post 9/11 era.

With the country on high alert for terrorist attacks, the government is keeping a close eye on potentially controversial situations, and one Northern Illinois University professor and sculptor is feeling the heat from his "lady liberty" sculpture.

On November 1 First Lady Laura Bush was stumping in Michigan, making her final solo appearance of the presidential election campaign at Maccomb Community College, but when Secret Service agents began their routine sweep of the building they said they noticed an inappropriate sculpture on display and decided to take the first lady on a different path through the building so she wouldn't see the artwork.

"We've always seen the piece as being pro-American, but when you start using images of the flag, people let knee jerk reactions and they think you're automatically saying something negative or anti-American," says NIU assistant professor Jeffrey Adams.

Adams is one of the artist's of the controversial piece. The sculpture depicts an Afghan woman clad in a Burka of an American flag.

"Immediately assumed it was a real flag, not realizing it was handmade and made from scrap material," says Adams.

Director of communications for the Illinois Chapter of the ACLU, Ed Yohnka, says although he hasn't heard about this instance specifically, he's heard about several similar situations in the past recent months.

He says, quote, "It fits a frightening pattern and behavior that has been exhibited by this administration since 9/11, in which they fail to recognize that protest and dissent isn't terrorism."

Adams says he was simply expressing his first amendment rights.

"The Secret Service are pretty pro-military guys, and it's actually a positive statement about our efforts in Afghanistan and they way we were able to free society, but they just saw the flag and flipped out."