New Lawsuit Targets NEA as the Focus of Legal Action

By Alex╺

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New Lawsuit Targets NEA as the Focus of Legal Action

Yesterday, a lawyer filed a lawsuit against the National Endowment for the Arts. The lawsuit claims that their $15,000 grant for an artist’s controversial exhibition showed “clear and public hostility towards religion” and broke the Constitution.

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit legal services group, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the NEA and its chairman, John E. Frohnmayer, on behalf of David Fordyce.

Fordyce was labeled as a “dedicated Christian” from Los Angeles.

The lawsuit referenced the NEA’s funding last year for “Tongues of Flame,” an art exhibit by David Wojnarowicz of New York, which University Galleries at Illinois State University curated.

In the Fordyce lawsuit, it was claimed that the NEA-funded catalog for the Wojnarowicz exhibition contained an image portraying Jesus Christ as a drug user. The lawsuit also stated that the catalog referred to Roman Catholic Cardinal John O’Connor of New York as a “fat cannibal” and “the world’s most active liar about condoms and safer sex.”

Fordyce stated that the NEA’s backing of the catalog sends “a message of hate and hostility towards organized religion” funded by the government, which goes against the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

New Lawsuit Targets NEA as the Focus of Legal Action

He requested that the court permanently stop the arts endowment from “financing, supporting, and endorsing works that promote blasphemous and sacrilegious hate material.”

The NEA did not have an immediate response to the lawsuit.

Speaking from New York over the phone, Wojnarowicz criticized the NEA’s history of poorly supporting artworks by minority artists, including homosexuals.

He remarked, “If intense criticism arises from cults or extremely conservative religious groups over the small funding that supports minority expression, then this country is in a troubling state.”

Barry Blinderman, the director of the Illinois gallery, criticized the sponsors of the lawsuit, calling them “hypocrites,” and passionately defended Wojnarowicz’s work against accusations of sacrilege.

Blinderman commented, “Before criticizing the NEA, those individuals should recall that it was religious leaders who rejected Christ and betrayed him.” He added, “Jesus taught ‘do not judge,’ and I suggest these individuals follow the teachings of the God they profess.”

John W. Whitehead, the founder and president of the Rutherford Institute, stated at a press conference that the NEA had “unlawfully utilized taxpayers’ money to participate in activities that are unfriendly toward religion and religious individuals.”

“The government should not support hateful artwork targeting its citizens,” Whitehead emphasized. “Religious individuals should not be singled out as targets in projects funded by the National Endowment.”

Wojnarowicz had previously sued Reverend Donald Wildmon and his conservative American Family Association in federal court in New York.

In late June, a judge in New York federal court determined that Wildmon’s group probably misrepresented Wojnarowicz’s works by including excerpts in a pamphlet titled “Your Tax Dollars Helped Pay for These ‘Works of Art.’”

The judge stated that the pamphlets, which were sent to members of Congress, religious leaders, and media outlets, likely harmed the artist’s reputation and the value of his works.

He issued an order prohibiting further distribution of the pamphlet.

New Lawsuit Targets NEA as the Focus of Legal Action

What do we think?

It seems like there’s a big legal battle brewing between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and religious groups. A lawsuit claims the NEA’s funding for a controversial art exhibit insults religion. If successful, it could change how the NEA supports art.

Artists are divided, with some defending the exhibit as freedom of expression. This case might set a precedent for future conflicts between art and religion in America.