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Gay art: The Catholic League responds to commentary on 'anti-gay bullying'

January 22, 2011 |  1:57 pm

Marsden Hartley 1914-15 The Catholic League dropped a line the other day to complain -- again -- about something I wrote in connection with the Smithsonian Institution's hasty and ill-informed decision to censor an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. As with the league's first e-mail in December, this one also makes a claim that is not supported by the facts.

Here's what I wrote that generated the latest complaint:

"The Smithsonian's dilemma was ginned up by a single source: the Catholic League, which New York Times columnist Frank Rich has aptly described as 'a right-wing publicity mill with no official or financial connection to the Catholic Church.' Wojnarowicz's video partly laments widespread official apathy early in the AIDS epidemic and uses a crucifix as a specific symbol of general Christian indifference. The Catholic League called it anti-Christian, but the symbol is in fact more correctly described as anti-Catholic League and its ilk. Here's why: William Donohue, the $400,000-a-year head of the organization, and L. Brent Bozell III, who is on the league's advisory board, are ardent anti-gay activists."

Here in its entirety is the e-mail I received this week from Donohue:


"Instead of relying on Frank Rich, you should do your own investigation. We are listed in the Official Catholic Directory, which demonstrates our nexus with the Church. Also, I had no idea that the vile video was part of a gay exhibition until after I called it hate speech. In any event, we won and you lost. Get over it. You are sounding like a narcissistic brat."

And finally, here is an excerpt of Donohue's first news release on the exhibition, issued Nov. 30 by his "right wing publicity mill" (you can find the Catholic League's release in its entirety here):

"The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery is currently hosting an exhibit, 'Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,' that features a video that shows large ants eating away at Jesus on a crucifix. The exhibit is replete with homoerotic images.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments as follows:

According to Penny Starr of CNSnews.com, David C. Ward, co-curator of the National Portrait Gallery, says the video, 'A Fire in My Belly,' is one of the 'masterpieces' of this exhibit. We call it hate speech."

In short, an exhibition Donohue's news release says is "replete with homoerotic images" -- it's not, as you can see in the museum's video walk-through -- is then characterized as featuring "hate speech." Donohue's denial now --  that he didn't know the exhibition concerned gay subject matter when he spoke out -- doesn't jibe. Even the factually challenged Penny Starr column Donohue refers to clearly identifies the show's gay subject matter.

The false claim, however, does underscore the deceptive nature of the inflammatory complaint the Smithsonian has had to deal with. Anti-gay bullying, even if the disapproval of homosexuality derives from a religious doctrine, drove the attack. The exhibition is the first in the nation's capital to examine homosexual identity in 19th- and 20th-century American art, and it has the establishment blessing of the popular Smithsonian Institution. As I noted at the time the controversy first erupted, that's the real reason anti-gay activists are so upset.

-- Christopher Knight


 Photo: Marsden Hartley, "Painting No. 47, Berlin," 1914-15; Credit: National Portrait Gallery

Comments () | Archives (33)

Faxed to President Obama:

The evil writings in Leviticus 18:22 … against gays – depicts: “P” … “priestly rules” & expanded by the pope; homophobes and religious frauds … to attack the gay community and never meant to apply to the public -- but to priests. Leviticus exists in the old testament & torah … & was written long after Moses -- 600BC.

How would you like it … if hate speech was directed to your brother or sister as you sat in the pew; spewed by some better than thou religious lunatic with a hateful black book about Leviticus -- under his arm?

The pope and churches fully aware that Leviticus 18:22 applies only to priests refuse to remove this stigma maliciously persecuting gays. Kids bullied into suicide …! Being black or left-handed or being gay is just as natural.
If the black community or women had it written that they should be put to death; how would they like that?
Churches are committing hate crimes and more succinctly a violent criminal offence against a federally protected minority namely the gay community. It is actually a bigger moment in history … gays standing up for equality … soldiers being discharged are indeed exposing something far greater ... the realization that there is something far more evil at work -- hateful religion which should be discharged from society -- period. United States is supposedly fighting for democracy but within the U.S. they treat gays like secondary citizens.
It’s now time to shut down the churches & synagogues with bibles with leviticus 18:22. Religion and the churches should now be exposed as a bigoted structure that gets away with hate mongering. It is a criminal offence to cause harm onto others physically or with written items … bibles have been getting away with this for ages. Tony Perkins and his The Family Research Council's opposition to gay rights have landed the outfit onto a list of "hate groups,” like the KKK. Christian colleges should be classified as hate groups and shut down. UK Prime Minister Cameron is facing this issue; as we speak … regarding hateful muslim & islam extremes & homophobia -- being taught to children at the mosques and schools.
This holier than thou – written so there it shall be -- fallacy; must be stopped!
It is a criminal offence to cause harm onto others physically or with written items … the bible and torah have been getting away with this for ages.
This bogus religious filth should be banned. It exists as a tax exempt structure which discriminates against human rights. The pope, bishops and mormons are cult members promoting discrimination against minorities. Perhaps religious establishments have pushed too far from San Francisco to Saskatchewan -- and it may backfire to such a degree that the churches should be shut down!

It is written; so therefore it shall be? We are the chosen people? Such a wicked fantasy. To see the religious lunatics manipulate government and our lives is shameful. According to biblical law, a father can sell his daughter as a slave.

Bibles and the torah which includes leviticus 18:22 -- should be immediately banned … for promoting hatred against minorities … namely the gay community and the crosses removed from all schools and churches.

The Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien told the Vatican that there was to be no cross erected over the Canadian Parliament buildings figuratively speaking; when the Pope demanded the Prime Minister go against gay rights. An Alberta bishop had the audacity to say that The Canadian Prime Minister would go to hell for going against the church. Such outrageous evil threats. The Right Honourable Prime Minister in return; basically told the Pope to go to Hell! The Honourable Irwin Cotler, Canadian Minister of Justice, stood for equal rights for the gay community. With reference to protecting the children: The Honourable Hedy Fry, member of the Canadian Liberal Parliament, who happens to be a doctor who delivered many babies; spoke eloquently to defend the rights of babies being born and stated that she was in fact defending their rights by speaking on behalf of equal rights for the children and youth of the future -- defending their integrity and dignity.

Perhaps the irony might be -- that the bogus hogus pogus hate-speech based on hateful leviticus 18:22 -- might bring the bible and torah into a banned status and the churches and synagogues shut down! Religious proselytizing must be stopped in its tracks. The follower of one faith approaches the other from a position of superiority. She/he assertively presents theirs as the only true religion. Other faiths, including the religion of the listener, may be described as inferior, filled with errors, or even Satan-inspired. The proselytizer might state that the other will spend eternity being tortured in Hell unless they convert to the proselytizer's religion.

It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return ... it is something that should be celebrated! If it is between two guys or girls all the better. It takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!
I am the son of a catholic father who never went to church and a protestant mother who took us to church and Sunday school. Onward christian soldiers; I think not. Such absolute drivel. To be manipulated by a santa claus; an easter bunny and worst of all a bogus cross?

One should appreciate each day of life and not expect another.

By enjoying their tax exempt status and benefits from the state it also puts churches at the mercy of the state; to be forced to adhere to the human rights laws. Religion is thriving like a cancerous growth on society that should be stopped in its tracks; outlawed & banned.

There is no scientific evidence to prove any of the cross related bogus elements of christianity. Our early human ancestors; on this earth … go back more than 6 million years … 5,996,000 years before the Greeks, Romans and the Jews. Christianity is basically a 2011 year old fictional cult.
In the year 300 AD when Emperor Constantine, who to some was the first pope; went on to fabricate & market Christianity - a fantasy - which turned out to be one of the most hateful & evil concoctions ever perpetrated on the world.
Minority rights must be decided by a dignified judicial system and/or a compassionate government.
Tell them to take that cross and shove it where the sun don't shine and pay their taxes along the way before they take that cross down forever with its final station; extinction.
The Vatican basically supported Hitler and religion is responsible for more corruption and violence in the world. Pope Ratzinger was involved in the Nazi youth. The Pope with his blatant witchcraft related to the bible and its hateful beliefs; tries to rule with extreme prejudice against a world … that may fall victim to religions' absolute evil. Many theologians state quite correctly that the birth; crucifixion; resurrection and other elements of christianity actually didn’t even happen! The pope is running a bigger fraud than Madoff’s $20 billion ripoff. Today’s evangelical extremists are like the nazis who cast others into ovens & are actually supremacists - who practice their bogus hocus pocus - and are trying to suppress and deprive others of their happiness and their legal rights in an open and proud society.

Einstein stated in a letter recently auctioned that the bible was a collection of primitive legends. He said believing in God was childish and he as a Jew is no different than another person and are not chosen by God. Do you want to be lambs at the slaughter or be wise and reject religious cultist manipulation? Mean & nasty; run by evil and bogus religious cults from Rome or wherever. Is this the world you want? The pope talks about ending prejudice and hate; what a hypocrite! Religion is a crutch for the insecure.
Appreciate every day and if there is no tomorrow; then know that you were fortunate to have lived on this earth!
A great story pertains to a boy at a catholic school in Oshawa, Ontario who wanted to take his boyfriend to his school prom. The evil catholic school forbids this. A father of one of the boys is an employee with General Motors Canada and the courageous union leader Buzz Hargrove stood up for the boys’ rights. The boy took his case through the courts and because the evil catholic school was benefiting from government funding which demands equal rights void of discrimination; the judge ordered the school to allow the two young boys to attend together. Their limo arrived at their prom with adoring onlookers.
To think of Matthew Shepard choking on his own blood after being savagely beaten; virtually sanctioned by the church is evil beyond comprehension; yet is the same as boys being bullied into suicide; most likely being supported by the bullies parents’ religious cults. Bigotry and hatemongering against gays should be banned.
Abused gay people should definitely talk to or write to their parents; friends; teachers & school principal ... about the issue. Your story may save another person!
A special compliment to the Parents … Mothers , Fathers and other family members who have stood up for their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews who may be facing identity issues as they enter their teens … possibly being bullied; when in fact being gay or bi is totally natural.
My father fought at the front on D-Day in Normandy … through the Battle of the Scheldt to Germany and grandfather was a Sgt. Major at Vimy. My Dad who was a catholic -- is alive today at 87 and doesn’t believe in santa claus -- an easter bunny or any of that bogus cross related filth.

Alan Turing broke the code for the enigima machine in World War II and was gay and was persecuted by religious fanatics – and he committed suicide. Prime Minister Brown recently apologized on behalf of the UK.

It is kinda funny in a way, and proves how extremists of both wings are truly so much alike, as in calling each other commie pinkos and brown shirts. Like in actual everyday reality there is much difference between the two, totalitarian is totalitarian. Jerks are jerks.

This guy says "In any event, we won and you lost. Get over it. "
The mayor of San Franciso during the Prop 8 campaign thinking they would prevail and had gay marriage locked up said"Whether you like it or not!"
Funny, huh? Well, truly, the rest of us are not amused with either of you.
Grow up.

Now lets start dealing with life as it is and creative arts purpose for being. This aint it. It is about uniting, not dividing. And you have failed, miserably, and so brought budget cuts upon yourselves. You are irrelevant. If irritating. So we chose to ignore you both, until elections when we vote for those who project an image of us, as Americans, not wingnuts.

art collegia delenda est

Sounds like hate speech to me Mr Faxer, YOUR hate speech.
By the way, just what do the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus have to do with Jesus/Yeshua/Isa? They are ways to secularize the religious holidays so greeting card companies can make money.
Your views are just as skewed as those you hate, hate is hate. Hater.

art collegia delenda est
They do not provide a balanced and useful education. Or certainly art skills.

By the way, as a real history major, that is just absurd. What cracker jack box did you get your info from?
To many mistakes to list, but will just go with that Constatnine was not Emperor til 306, and later put out an edict simply stopping persecutions of Christians, who were often killed and discrimated against far worse than gays in modern America.

by the way, not really Christian, and wife raised Muslim. Though Isa is venerated as perhaps the only pure man and the greatest prophet, just not son of God,There can only be One, but not like Highlander.
You most certainly are not.

art collegai delenda est

Donahue (four hundred grand a year? Now that's a laugh.) is in lock step with The Pope. I feel sorry for LGBT people of the Catholic faith and especially for Catholic youth - closeted or out.

Frazell-youre mistaken
Art is not about uniting or divider-it is there to inspire, to move, to cause a reaction-good or bad
You talk of censorship when you demand to define art

the easter bunny and santa claus have much to do with religious beliefs-belief is based on faith, which has no logic behind it-but believe as you will

This article is sound-clearly shows that the religious extremists only care about control and keeping the flock dumb...

Full gay rights are coming soon


Forgive me a little bravado-we're tired of trying to gain acceptance-now we go through the courts and the courts, thankfully, are free from religion

Is it hate ... when someone from the gay community exposes the evil side of hateful & bogus religion ...?

Perhaps it's time to expose suppressive cults -- who have caused so much repression towards gays for years.

if everyone would just come out of the closet this would be such a peaceful world.

Just get government out marriage already. Why do we want government in control of marriage anyways? True equality can only come through government free marriage.

For LA Times reader's who may have missed Frank Rich's editorial in The New York Times, here's the byline, title, date and link:

Gay Bashing at the Smithsonian
Published: December 11, 2010


And a song for you to experience on you tube:

Mandy Patinkin - South Pacific - Carefully Taught


Frazell ... Santa and the Easter Bunny are lures into a cult for the young -- which should be halted in its tracks; such drivel. I am totally aware of the year Constantine established the clearance for the cult -- which is christianity -- to be an accepted doctrine ... which is based on hearsay. Walt Disney has more credibility. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are much more pure.

Its Leviticus 18:22 that I have difficulty with! Such evil to be cast upon the gay community. Such total evil! Religion has thrived on scare tactics -- which should be exposed -- for its bogus elements! Kids being bullied based on filthy cults of their parents!

"William Donohue, the $400,000-a-year head of the organization"

Why does Donohue need $400,000 a year?

so you're going to lead the dodo's into the gay-christian morass and escape responsibility for MOCA censorship?

Donohue is regularly trotted out by Faux News to "represent" the (orthodox) Catholic point of view. He is always full of bombast, arrogance and sanctimony. One look at his snarling face and it's clear he is nothing more than a paranoid, garden variety bigot. As such, he is hardly in a position to represent Catholicism.
Frankly, the church should censor him outright.

Why does it have to be gay art; why can't it be just art? If I find it repulsive I won't choose to view it or recommend it. I find the jewish museum in L.A. to be offensive and self serving. It's my opinion; others find it enlightening.
What people are finally realizing is the LGBT "community's agenda" is not compatible with their lifestyle and what they want for their children. No one really wants to aspire to be gay but we must learn to be tolerant. Is your agenda to teach us to be tolerant or are you just a gay atheist spuing hate?

Donohue doesn't speak even for most Catholics. He speaks for himself and for the extreme conservatives, who would probably prefer the Mass in Latin and women back in their kitchens (barefoot and etc).

Creative art is about exploring what it means to be human, seeking the essentials of who WE are. All that divides can be called a lower form of art, but as propaganda.

Sounds like some are setting up theirown cult with hate to define an enemy, as all cults need to feel persecuted to survive.

And government out of marriage? What do you think marriage has been created for? all over the world from its inception, marriage is about binding families as one for Children. It creates obligations to look after the little varmints and alliances betwen the families. It is a legally binding contract to bind people together, period.

One can go have religious weddings all you want. Until we decide to reinterpret and define what marriage is, this is it, always has been. I dont care, if we want to make it about "love" then do so, if you can convince enough people, but is MUST be accepted by the majority easily to have validity. Otherwise, it will be overthrown at some point. it hamsut be shown to benefit society, it si NOT about YOU. It is and always has been about US.

Anger and hate isnt gonna get it done, chill. Prop 8 won because of that idiot saying Whether you like it or not. Just as the English only prop won when there was a huge Mexican parade downtown and the front page of the Times showed nothing but Mexican flags, not a American in sight. At least 5% changed their mind right there. You gonn a be rude and hateful, seperate and define yourselvs as different and better, and arrogant, well, this is what you got.

Humility begins at home, and starts with looking at the mirror not for vanity, but insight to ones own essense. without that, there is no art. Nothing but surface and desire. Stop dragging art in the filth. It is the highest common denominator, neither the lowest nor the selfish.

It is time to put aside childish things.

Well, Christopher, this proves the danger in arguing with idiots, although you don't really look like an idiot yourself in this. The comments, however . . .

Organized religion, a sinkhole for your mind, morality and ethics... But it does make some folks lots of money!

By the way, art is a word, a symbol created by man to communicate ideas and information. It therefore must have a definition to be useful, if it doesnt, then art doesnt exist.

And it doesnt. This art is anything and everything pertaining to the individuals desires is simply hedonism run amuk, and useful to art academies to sell their useless degrees. It s a business, the museo/academy/gallery complex in for its own agrandizement, not humanities.

And so no one cares anymore, because it is useless, meaningless, self absorbed, and decadent. The Bastille of academic art hs been rebuilt, destroyed by the post impressionsits, but once again the business of amusing the rich and kowtowing to their false sense of entitlement and superiority. dominant.

Art is no more, or, it exists but outside the academic framework. Art has meaning and purpose, or does not exist at all. It defines who WE are, explores nature and mans place in our world, and serches for god, whatever that means to you, But the only concept worth exploring, evolving, as it is what gives US purpose.

Artistes in turning to their own desires has abandoned this evolving of our understanding of god, and so been taken over by the right wing for their own to define and abuse. The left thinks they ARE god. When truly but puny whiners. And so we have the antagonism, when the people call for Peace. And Peace begins within. Neither wing has any.

The center must hold.
Save the spiritual Watts Towers, tear down the decadent Ivories.

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