• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld a 1990 statute that directed the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to consider general standards of decency and respect for diverse beliefs when deciding which projects to fund, but the Court narrowly interpreted the statute as a general exhortation rather than an actual restriction on particular expression.

In a suit brought by Karen Finley and three other artists, a court of appeals ruled that the law unconstitutionally discriminated among artists based on their viewpoints. By an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment. Speaking for five of her colleagues, Justice Sandra Day O’ConnorO’Connor, Sandra Day[OConnor, Sandra Day];National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley[National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley] concluded that the statute did not constitute a threat to First Amendment values because it imposed “no categorical requirement” on the NEA to reject projects on the basis of disfavored viewpoints. In a concurring opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia disagreed with O’Connor’s narrow reading of the law and argued that the First Amendment did not prohibit the government from establishing viewpoint-based restrictions on the use of public funds. In contrast, Justice David H. Souter’s dissenting opinion insisted that it was unconstitutional for the government to disqualify individuals from receiving public benefits simply because their expressed views were considered unacceptable or offensive.Speech, freedom of;National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley[National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley]

Obscenity and pornography

Rust v. Sullivan

Speech and press, freedom of

Categories: History Content