Where’s the ACLU when you need them?
On Sunday, the New York Post reported
that the Metropolitan Museum of Art “quietly pulled images of the Prophet Mohammed from its Islamic collection and may not include them in a renovated exhibition area slated to open in 2011.” The justification for the removal? “The museum said the controversial images – objected to by conservative Muslims who say their religion forbids images of their holy founder – were ‘under review.’”
So here’s the bottom line: the Met decided it didn’t want to face the kind of murderous rage the global Muslim community often demonstrates when pictures of Mohammed are posted publicly (see: Danish cartoons
Aside from the obvious cowardice of the artistic community when it comes to images of Islam, there’s another problem: there’s a strong case to be made that removal of these images in order to “protect” Muslim sensibilities violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause under current Supreme Court precedent.
For example, in a case entitled McCreary County, Kentucky v. ACLU
(2005), the Supreme Court decided that a display of the Ten Commandments in a Kentucky courthouse violated the Establishment Clause. Citing Epperson v. Arkansas
(1968), Souter wrote, “The touchstone for our analysis is the principle that the ‘First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion’ … Manifesting a purpose to favor one faith over another … clashes with the ‘understanding, reached … after decades of religious war, that liberty and social stability demand a religious tolerance that respects the religious views of all citizens.’”
Seems like a state-funded facility banning a pictures of a particular religious figure in preference for extreme practitioners of a certain religion would fall under the rubric of “favor[ing] one faith over another.” In fact, it favors one strain of Islam over another – there are many Muslims who don’t believe in an absolute ban on images of Islam’s founder.
The Met’s removal of the Mohammed art violates all three parts of the three-part Lemon
test, established in Lemon v. Kurtzman
Part one: the government action must have a secular legislative purpose. What exactly is secular about removing particular images on behalf of a particular faith?
Part two: the government action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion. This clearly advances one strain of Islam at the expense of all other religions.
Part three: the government action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion. This is entanglement of the worst sort – government officials making artistic decisions based on the sensibilities of a very specific subset of religious believers.
Well, how about it, ACLU? You’ve spent so long attacking Christianity and Judaism that you might as well go after Islam, too. Or are you simply too scared to take on the jihadis, who are a hell of a lot more threatening to freedom of religion than religious Christians or Jews?