Monday, November 21, 2011

Is Christian Bashing Being Funded by the Public?


A group of New York lawmakers and public officials were demanding a taxpayer-funded museum in Brooklyn remove an art exhibit that includes a film depicting ants crawling on a crucifix. They believe that this is one of the repeated attempts of the museum to bash the Christian faith. This group of individuals believes that the Brooklyn museum is trying to make religion bashing fashionable. Before this controversial piece of artwork, there was another one in 1999, which featured an exhibit that depicted Mary with African features and included clumps of elephant dung and cutouts of female genitalia. Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to cut the funding of the 1999 exhibit, however, it was unsuccessful. Representative, Michael Grimm, said, “It’s an issue of how we spend our taxpayer dollars. Everyone has a right to express themselves. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have the right to go around offending massive groups of people and have other people pay for it.” It is the first amendment that allows the artists freedom of speech and the ability to create whatever they want, however, once it becomes religiously offensive does it violate the first amendment?

Taxpayer’s money has funded a religious exhibit in the past, like in the court case Lynch v Donnelly. Their money went towards not only a Christmas scene with Christmas trees, snowflakes and Santa Claus, but also a nativity scene of Jesus Christ’s birth. Therefore, shouldn’t the law remain the same in all-religious tax-funded exhibits? If a nativity scene is okay, why not a religious film?

I believe there is a huge difference between funding a nativity scene and funding artwork that mocks the Christian religion. Taxpayers money should not be contributed to something that is religion offensive. I usually argue that courts should stay consistent with their court case rulings, however, this is a situation where I strongly disagree, public taxes should not be funding this religious exhibit, nor should it even be their for all of New York City to see. I understand that the artist has freedom of speech, but if this is allowed then what next? What if there was a painting that incorporated the KKK, is that still freedom of speech, or is that offensive yet?

Taxpayer’s money should only be permitted to fund religious exhibits if they can somehow be secularized. Like the Christmas scene in Lynch v Donnelly, it brought customers into town, which helped the local businesses. However, there is absolutely no secular purpose to the film in the Brooklyn museum. I understand New York City is known for its creativity, edginess and diversity, however, offending a religion with taxpayer’s money is completely unacceptable and the museum should stop being funded by taxpayers immediately. This would be an entirely different scenario if the museum were privately funded.

16 comments:

Chris R. said...

Defamation has long lay outside the protections of Free Speech. This may be seen a clear example of libel, defamation in the form of written words or images. However, to claim defamation, the images must be proven false, a difficult achievement, especially since it is often impossible to discover the true and intended meaning of artwork. However, one thing is clear: no establishment claim can be made here since no establishment has occurrred.

Harry R. said...

I disagree with Liz and feel that the legal protection of artistic expression mandates support of this image no matter how controversial it may be. Art can be as religious or secular as it wants. As we have discussed previously, having "The Last Supper" in an art museum is not government establishment of religion. Similarly, anti-religious art is legal as well. While it may be greatly disliked and result in less support of the art museum, this type of artistic expression has full legal support.

Christopher J. said...

Both Chris and Harry are correct; the art exhibit in no way constitutes an establishment of religion. Just because a public art museum is hosting an exhibit with a religious (or in this case an anti-religious) tone does not mean that the government is promoting an official state religion of any kind.

Molly Veelguski said...

Even though the thought of the art piece makes me uncomfortable, I would have to agree with Chris and Harry. Artistic expression is not always liked nor is always fully accepted. But the placement of a religious piece within a public museum does not create any establishment of religion.

Zoey Goldnick said...

I agree, in many cases before we have even said, well if they were in a museum, it would be justified. It somehow does give the piece more historical or artistic purpose. It is clear that the government is not endorsing "Christian Bashing." Further, there are examples of Christian art in museum. So this is simply allowing for both viewpoints.

Ashley R said...

The artwork is and should be protected by the First Amendment. Even though many may find the artwork offensive, the Constitution does not limit free speech to inoffensive expression. Certainly, the government should not censor such a basic right for to do so would severely curtail people’s liberty. As pointed out in the above comments, there is no issue of establishment since no religion is being made into a federal religion. Therefore, this issue is not at odds with the First Amendment.

Marissa V said...

I agree with Harry's comment that there is legal protection of artistic expression; however, it should not be funded with tax payer's dollars. If a museum wishes to have controversial artwork then that's completely fine as long as the museum is privately funded. This is a public museum and should not have sacreligious artwork.

kanderson said...

completely agree with Harry. One as has to look at this situation as art. once, they do, it is easy to recognize the fact that it is art and it does therefore not contradict that idea that they are negating religion. it is not the establishment of religion, but a presentation of art. furthermore, ashley is correct that this art project should not be paid for by tax payers dollars, the artist should be responsible for fundraising and allocating those donations to the aspects of the project that they deem necessary.

kanderson said...

i completely agree with harry that this situation at hand is one of whether or not it is a piece of art. it is indeed a piece of art, and once one realizes this then this situation is easier to understand. furthermore, the tax payers dollars should not be used to fund this art project. the artist needs to be responsible for fundraising, and once the funds have been made then the artist can allocate those funds as they seem fit.

Sophie K said...

Because the piece is in a museum, I think the artwork has a historical and artistic purpose, rather than religious. Furthermore, I think it is clear that the government is not endorsing a direct bashing of the Christian religion. I agree with Harry that there is legal protection for artistic expression. If the museum thought this was going to be a controversial painting, then they shouldn’t have allowed it there in the first place.

BryceS said...

In agreement with what has been mentioned, I do not believe the government is endorsing this artwork (which would constitute an establishment), and yes, everyone is entitled to free speech. I do, however, believe there is an issue with religious bashing in this situation, although it should be handled by the museum as the problem does not extend to government funding.

Justin E said...

I feel like there is a limit to artistic expression (whether people are respectful of this limit or not may not be held against those who chose to step over the line). This reminds me of when Matt Stone and Trey Parker portrayed Muhammed in the cartoon South Park and were threatened by some people of Muslim background.

Justin E said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elena T said...

Although I understand Liz's point, I do too will have to disagree. I feel that removing the piece of art work would be an establishment of religion. Also, art is up to interpretation, the artist may not have intended it as a bashing of the Christian faith. It is difficult to say exactly what the piece means because everyone views art differently.

Sam S said...

I believe that one should be free to express themselves. This is not an establishment of religion instead it is the reorganization of free speech. If people do not like the images that are being displayed then they do not have to go see the artwork, and subsequently that museum could lose funding if people stop going to it.

Callie B said...

I disagree with Liz. Artistic expression is protected under the free speech clause of the First Amendment. If one tried to argue that this was establishment, should we then have all the greatly revered Renaissance art taken out of museums? I think it is clear that the artist is a private individual, expressing a private viewpoint that is up for interpretation. That viewpoint should not be censored.