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You don't have a right to my money

By Scott Tibbs, October 2, 1999

A great deal of controversy has erupted over New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's attempt to cut funds from an art exhibit laced with religious bigotry and obscenity.

The offending art features a picture of the Virgin Mary with a piece of elephant manure on it, a clear expression of hostility toward Christianity. The art exhibit also features a "13 foot high rendering of a notorious British child killer, created with the shapes of children's handprints", according to the Associated Press.

Besides the offensive picture of the Virgin Mary, the painting honoring a child murderer is just plain perverted. An evil monster like this should never be honored in such a way. If anything, there should be a rendering of the electric chair this man belongs in. This is a slap in the face to the families of the children he murdered, and a disgraceful stain on the children's memory.

Predictably, the Hollywood Left including Susan Sarandon has been attacking Giuliani, calling him a "fascist" and defending the "free speech" rights of the so-called artists.

But Sarandon and her cronies are missing the picture. No matter how perverted a painting of a child murderer is, and no matter how bigoted the defaced picture of the Virgin Mary is, they have the right to publish such trash. Even many conservatives would defend this. But what these "artists" do not have a "right" to is other people's money. Other people should not be forced to contribute to "art" that denigrates their religion or celebrates child killers.

And while the Hollywood Left whines about "free speech", they completely ignore the First Amendment's provisions on religion. The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion", and the 14th Amendment applies this to the states. A reasonable person can also conclude that phrase also applies to government-sanctioned religion bashing. By funding with taxpayer dollars the desecration of the Virgin Mary, the government is taking a stand against religion, in clear violation of the First Amendment.

This case is an example of why the government should not be in the business of funding the arts. One can make the point that if the government is to fund art, it cannot pick and choose what art meets its criteria for funding based on the art's content. And while the Supreme Court has stated government can include decency standards in its decisions on what to fund, that argument is still compelling.

A solution to this is not to fund art at all, but to focus on important areas government should be funding. Surely the NYC Police Department or Fire Department could use some extra funding, and infrastructure is always a concern in a major metropolis. Would not the money going to the "arts" be better spent on the safety of the citizens of New York or on economic development?

This could have interesting implications on the 2000 Senate race. Giuliani, a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual rights liberal, could be trying to shore up support with conservatives in his race against Hillary Clinton. And if Hillary sides with the Hollywood Left, she could be portrayed as an elitist out of touch with the common person.

While Giuliani's liberalism on social issues turns off many Republicans, his stand for common decency and fiscal accountability has greatly increased his credibility in my eyes. And while I would still be unable to support him in a race, his stand on this issue has earned my respect.