A painting set to be unveiled at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach is
upsetting the Catholic church. Bill Donohue from the Catholic League sent the following letter to the museum's executive director:
Opening next week at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art is an exhibition that features a painting by Mark Ryden, Rosie's Tea Party . It depicts a young girl in her First Communion dress, wearing a crucifix around her neck,
cutting a piece of ham with the words Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) inscribed on it. There is a bottle of wine on the table with a picture of Jesus in it; nearby, there is a rabbit pouring a teapot with blood coming out of it. When one
of the commissioners on the Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission objected to this work, you defended it, saying, Art is intended to be controversial. Ryden defended his painting by saying, I am really not poking fun at
religion, adding that Someone ought to poke fun at those Christians, though.
I have a suggestion. Why not substitute a young Muslim girl in a hijab, wearing a machete around her neck, cutting a piece of ham with the words, Allahu Akbar inscribed on it. In place of Jesus in the wine bottle, display a picture of
Muhammad. And yes, please keep the blood. When Muslims complain, tell them that Art is intended to be controversial, and Someone ought to poke fun at those Muslims anyway. Please be sure to let me know the outcome.
The artworks were embroiled in a censorship attempt on another front. in response to teh catholic 'outrage', Brian Kirwin, a member of the Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission said to a local journalist that he would consider
cutting the funding for the museum.
Svetlana Mintcheva, director of programs with National Coalition Against Censorship in New York, responded to the censorship attempt in a letter:
The government cannot suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine, nor can it suppress works of art said to be offensive, sacrilegious, morally improper or dangerous. Contrary to what you appear to believe, government
officials are also barred from using the power of the purse to discriminate against art based on the viewpoint expressed in it.
?Anybody is entitled to criticize art in an exhibition, but First Amendment principles bar government officials from discriminating against controversial viewpoints. MOCA cannot and should not tailor its programming to promote the views of
certain interest groups while suppressing those of others. Taxpayer funds go to maintain a vibrant and diverse cultural sphere that serves all Americans not just Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. We may differ on cultural or
social issues and argue about these issues in the press, in public spaces, in galleries and performance spaces, but government officials cannot use financial leverage as a threat to silence those with whom they disagree,