Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani

Mayor's WINS Address
Sunday, October 03, 1999

Hear the Mayor's Message

The First Amendment Does Not Require Public Subsidy
by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani

Now that the shock art exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum is open, and the Museum has redoubled its insistence on using taxpayers' money to subsidize it, I think it's important that I rearticulate my position.

People have a right in America to express any opinion that they want on religion, on politics, on the country, or on anything else-and that's a fundamental right that we should always defend strongly. But there is nothing in the Constitution that requires you and I to pay for expressions of opinion that desecrate and attack our deepest held symbols and beliefs. There's nothing in the Constitution that requires us to support hate speech or hate exhibits.

The issue before us in this case is whether hard-earned taxpayer dollars should go toward actively supporting an exhibit that is patently offensive to many of the taxpayers themselves. That many of the taxpayers feel is really just a display of hatred toward a particular religious group or extremely offensive in the way in which it deals with sexuality and other areas. This is a show that glorifies pedophiles, desecrates the Virgin Mary, and displays the carcasses of dead animals, just to name a few things. I don't want to go into great detail describing all of the displays because even the descriptions can become repulsive. But the core question is whether it's fair to force taxpayers to fund, with their own hard-earned dollars, what many of them feel is a direct assault on their deepest held religious and philosophical beliefs.

We can't stop outrageous pamphlets, hate literature, things like that, from being printed and distributed on the street by private individuals. But should City government be obligated to condone, finance and support the printing and distribution of hate literature, any more than hate exhibits or similar kinds of exhibits? No-and what I'm saying here is similar. The City has a limited amount of public money; every tax dollar is a dollar taken out of the pocket of someone who worked hard for it. As a result, the spending of public money is a public trust. That's why I believe that scarce taxpayer dollars should not be spent on the aggressive desecration of national or religious symbols, or spent on hate literature or hate speech.

Moreover, in showing this exhibit, the Brooklyn Museum has to close off part of its exhibition space to children - put limits on it -- because the images are horrible and disgusting. But closing off any part of the museum violates the lease between the Museum and the City. It also violates the law. They're charging money for people to see the exhibit-another violation of their lease, which requires the museum to be free and open to the public. And at the same time, they're displaying a private collection in a way that appears designed specifically to raise its value -- also possibly another inappropriate and illegal use of public space and revenue.

Whatever your views or mine about "Sensation," "Sensation" has a right to exist-and private citizens have a right to see it and support it. But they should do that with private money, not use the money of taxpayers who have very strong objections to this, despite their strong objections. At least that's my opinion. And I think that if you try to set aside emotion-which I admit is very, very difficult to do, especially in a case that stirs people's passions like this one-and seriously consider this issue and the questions it raises, then you'll come to the conclusion that this is an inappropriate use of hard-earned taxpayers' dollars.

This is Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

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