A group of New York lawmakers and public officials are demanding that a taxpayer-funded museum in Brooklyn remove an art exhibit that includes a film depicting ants crawling on a crucifix – calling it another example of “Christian bashing.”
“This is an outrageous use of taxpayer money by the nation’s second-largest art museum, and an obvious attempt to offend Christians on the eve of one of the holiest times of the Christian faith,” wrote Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro in a letter to the museum director.
A total of seven Conservatives and Republicans signed the letter. Molinaro said Democratic lawmakers were also invited to sign, but he said they all declined.
“It’s fashionable to beat up on the Christians,” he told Fox News. “No one complains about it.”
“A Fire in My Belly” is part of a larger collection going on display at the Brooklyn Museum that explores how gender and sexual identity have shaped American art. The film, by David Wojnarowicz, was pulled from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., after members of Congress expressed outrage and a Catholic advocacy group labeled the art “sacrilegious.”
This same museum once featured an exhibit that showed Mother Mary covered in elephant dung.
Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold Lehman defended the film telling the Associated Press it was “such an important aspect of American art in the 20th century.”
“My hope is that this will be an extraordinarily important way in which to bring the entire city together to celebrate American art during this last century,” he told the AP.
Lehman declined to comment on the lawmaker’s letter. The museum said it encourages patrons with concerns about the artwork to view it in person.
“That’s the dumbest statement a man can make,” Molinaro told Fox News. “What is it to look at? Does it get better if I look at ants crawling up the nostril of Jesus?”
“It’s absolutely outrageous,” he said. “They’re bashing the Christians continuously at that museum.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to cut funding from the museum in 1999 after it featured an exhibit that depicted Mary with African features and included clumps of elephant dung and cutouts of female genitalia.
“This is New York City,” Lehman told the AP. “This is a city that has thrived on the incredible contributions from the gay and lesbian community.”
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) was one of the lawmakers who signed Molinaro’s letter. He said this is not a First Amendment issue.
“It’s an issue of how we spend our taxpayer dollars,” he told Fox News. “Everyone has a right to express themselves. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have the right to go around offending massive groups of people and have other people pay for it.”
Molinaro and Grimm said the issue should transcend religions.
“I’m a very proud Catholic,” Grimm said. “Do I find this offensive as a Christian? Yes. But I also find it offensive as an American. If it was Islam or if it was Judaism, I would be just as offended as an American.”
“I’m against anything derogatory towards anyone’s faith,” Molinaro said.
And that’s why he’s calling on not just New Yorkers, but people across the country to turn up the heat – and urge the museum to reconsider.
“Everyone should come out against this – regardless if you are a Christian,” he said. “If everyone came out against it, I believe a difference would be made.”
With reporting from the Associated Press