Officials at the state-run Cultural Center of the Philippines shut an art exhibit on Tuesday after it provoked heated debate as well as threats and hate mail for combining Christian symbols with phallic objects.

The decision by the center’s board of directors came a day after former first lady and art patron Imelda Marcos joined politicians and Roman Catholic church leaders in denouncing the exhibit.

The board said it made the decision because of “an increasing number of threats to persons and property,” including the artists and the cultural center staff.

It said the threats increased after critics vandalized an installation by removing a wooden penis from a poster depicting Jesus Christ.

The exhibit by contemporary Filipino artists including Mideo Cruz prompted heated debate about freedom of expression, with President Benigno Aquino II describing it as offensive to the 85 percent of Filipinos who are Christian like him.

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