Congress has the duty to require the National Endowment for the Arts to ensure its money is not spent on obscenity, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Friday.
"It is hardly censorship for Congress to require guidelines for such grants. Additionally, the organization ought to have specific authority to recover grant money that is not spent in accordance . . . and to sanction grantees who flaunt the rules," he said.Hatch's comments came in a hearing on whether to reauthorize the endowment before the House Labor Subcommittee on Education, Art and Humanities.
"Taxpayers were justifiably offended when the Pentagon spent $600 for a hammer. So why shouldn't they be angry when the organization spends $15,000 on an art project that offends basic cultural, religious and family values?"
He said, "The National Endowment for the Arts has an obligation to prevent direct or indirect subsidies to such obviously outrageous activities as the Annie Sprinkle (live sex act) exhibition."
But he added, "I can understand, however, the concern of artists for freedom of expression, and I can certainly understand the difficulty of writing a statutory standard that defines obscenity.
"Any standard must be crafted in such a way that in denying funds to the offensive `Piss Christ' work of Andres Serrano, it does not discourage the latter-day equivalent of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel."