Sept. 27, 2005 – Speaking to an audience at Juilliard College, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last week said that the government should end funding for the arts, and he maintained that if Washington must continue supporting artists, withholding funds from art it disagrees with is perfectly acceptable. The pronouncement reiterated the justiceâ€™s prior statements and further elucidated recent Court decisions while prompting quick criticism from free-speech advocates.
Scaliaâ€™s statements came as part of a panel discussion on art and society in the United States that included a noted opera singer, a songwriter and a conservative lawyer, Juilliardâ€™s administration noted in a statement following the event. Moderated by Juilliard President Joseph Polisi, the debate became strained at several points with the lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, and Scalia squaring off on artistic expression, the New York Times reports.
According to the Associated Press, Scalia told the assembly: "The First Amendment has not repealed the ancient rule of life, that he who pays the piper calls the tune."
In 1998, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of tying funding for the arts to standards of decency, though it did not offer a clear direction on how far expression can go before violating the principle. Justice David Souter offered the lone dissent in the case.