Monday, October 11, 2010

"It seems to me that museums, whether public or private, ought to take a stand against thuggery, and ought not surrender to the thugs’ demands"

I mentioned last week the story of a woman who was arrested for destroying an artwork at a Colorado museum "that some observers say depicts Jesus engaged in a sex act."

Now comes news that the museum will not re-hang the work, citing safety concerns. Eugene Volokh is disappointed -- "behavior that is rewarded is repeated, and I would hope that museums would see the costs of providing further encouragement to those who would vandalize museums (or for that matter threaten to vandalize them) -- and adds this bit of constitutional commentary:

"[T]he Establishment Clause doesn’t prohibit the display of allegedly blasphemous or antireligious works in government museums, just like it doesn’t prohibit the display of pro-religious works in government museums. See, e.g., the various opinions’ mentions of museums in County of Allegheny v. ACLU (as well as Justice O’Connor’s dissent in Van Orden v. Texas). An entire government museum devoted to Christian painting or to anti-Christian blasphemy might violate the Establishment Clause 'endorsement test' (which still seems to be part of the law). But occasional artworks in such museums would not be seen as sending a message of government endorsement of religion."