Judge gives Giuliani his just comeuppance

On Monday a federal judge issued an preliminary injunction restoring funding to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Although the dispute surrounding public funding of partially offensive exhibits is controversial, the decision in this situation is prudent.
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had been withholding the city’s share of funding for the museum, a total of $7.2 million annually, because of his objections to work in a certain exhibit. U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon concluded Giuliani’s actions violated the First Amendment. Gershon stated that Giuliani’s actions were “directly related … to the particular viewpoints expressed. There can be no greater showing of a First Amendment violation.”
While lawsuits and countersuits will certainly continue, Gershon’s ruling will establish a strong precedent for opponents of certain pieces of publicly funded art. Her ruling decisively explains that although certain works might be offensive, the objections of government officials cannot decide which museums deserve funding. “There is no federal constitutional issue more grave than the effort by government officials to censor works of expression and to threaten the vitality of a major cultural institution as punishment for failing to abide by orthodoxy,” Gershon said.
Giuliani responded that the judge is “totally out of control,” exhibiting his lack of understanding of the judge’s ruling. Although the city cannot continue to withhold the museum’s funding because of the contents of certain exhibits, Giuliani will attempt to circumnavigate this ruling to satisfy his agenda. The ruling, however, prevents him or any other government official from unilaterally deciding what constitutes art.