Sep 15, 2011

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threatened to terminate a museum’s lease and cut its financing when it featured an exhibit that included a painting by artist Chris Ofili of the Virgin Mary accompanied by elephant dung. Museum officials filed a federal suit to protect the museum against punishment from the mayor. The court issued a preliminary injunction against the city’s actions, explaining that the city violated the museum’s free-speech rights, and suggesting that the city may have also violated the Establishment Clause. On December 27, 1999, AU and allied groups filed an amicus brief with the Second Circuit arguing that the city’s censorship of art on religious grounds was unconstitutional. The city subsequently dropped its appeal and agreed to abandon its efforts to censor the museum.