I can easily join the rabble rabble crowd of disillusioned non-hippie liberals who wax on about our freedom of speech in this country being more infringed upon than we should allow it to be. I think Phelps is a super douche, but I don't think he should be banned from protesting (though I do go back and forth about his presence at funerals. Damn, what a dick.)
However, I know that here in America I have it better than a lot of other places in the world. Here's an example of how bad things could be -
MOSCOW — One painting depicted Jesus Christ as Mickey Mouse, another as Vladimir Lenin. The 2007 exhibit was part of an effort to fight censorship of the arts, but the Russian Orthodox Church was horrified.
Now, after a 14-month trial, the two prominent Moscow art curators who put on the show are facing the prospect of three years in prison.
Artists and rights activists have appealed to the Kremlin to put a stop to the prosecution of Yury Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, warning of a return to Soviet-era cultural censorship with the rules now dictated by a conservative and politically powerful church.
Even Russia's culture minister says the two men did nothing to break the law against inciting religious hatred.
But the prosecutors refuse to back down and have demanded a three-year prison sentence when the judge makes her ruling on July 12.
The exhibit "Forbidden Art" at the Sakharov Museum, a human rights center named after celebrated dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov, featured several paintings with images of Jesus Christ.
In one, Christ appeared to his disciples as Mickey Mouse. In another, of the crucifixion, the head of Christ was replaced by the Order of Lenin medal, the highest award of the Soviet Union.
Samodurov, who was the museum's director from its founding in 1996 until he stepped down in 2008, had already once been convicted of inciting religious hatred and fined the equivalent of $3,600 for an exhibit in 2003 called "Caution: Religion!"
The exhibit was closed a few days after it opened after a group of altar boys defaced many of the contemporary paintings, which used religious allusions to express attitudes toward religion, culture and the state.
You know, people who are religious often claim that their beliefs have power and that their god is all powerful. Reactions like this are what make me think that maybe they don't actually buy into all that hype. If you know you're right, you have no reason to be so angry at those who say you're wrong. Vandalism like this seems like an indication of doubt on their part.
I'm protective of art because I think it's valuable historically to a society. The art a society enjoys and produces says a lot about what's going on at that time in a unique way. The censorship of art, to me, is like censoring part of the historical record. Which hardly ever bodes well.