City Council President Clay Yarborough asked Mayor Alvin Brown to pull more than $233,000 in taxpayer dollars from the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville for displaying a piece of art in a public space showing a nude pregnant woman.
Brown isn’t going to do it.
In a letter to Yarborough dated today, Brown said the Office of General Counsel has opined that pulling the funding “would likely” violate First Amendment rights and could subject the city to injunctive action and financial sanctions.
Brown wrote that because of those issues, he wouldn’t seek to pull any funding from the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, which distributes those city dollars.
“I am hopeful that we can put this issue behind us so that the City can continue working with the arts and cultural community to revitalize Downtown, enhance our quality of life, and make Jacksonville a vibrant destination,” Brown wrote.
Yarborough had described the photograph in Angela Strassheim's exhibition at MOCA as "pornographic."
General Counsel Jason Gabriel in an email this morning wrote that based on federal case law, the city can’t remove artwork from the museum based on what it may deem offensive. The city could, he said, choose to fund agencies or activities however it wishes, but it can’t discriminate or base decisions on viewpoints with which it disagrees. Doing so would violate the museum’s and possibly the artist’s free speech rights, Gabriel wrote.