A mural containing a classical nude has become the target of police harassment in the small town of Pilot Point in Northern Texas. Wes Miller, owner of the gallery on whose wall the nude is painted has received a police notice claiming the mural is in violation of the Texas Penal Code 43.24 banning the sale, distribution and display of material harmful to minors. Miller is given the choice of modifying the mural or facing criminal charges. The mural itself, reminiscent in composition of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam fresco in the Sistine Chapel, depicts a large hand pointing at an apple and a classical female nude on the other side contemplating that same apple.
Article 43.24 of the Texas Penal Code defines material that is harmful to minors as material "whose dominant theme taken as a whole" "appeals to the prurient interest of a minor," "is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors," and "is utterly without redeeming social value for minors." What the article targets is commercial pornography, not artwork. The mural on Wes Miller’s wall is certainly not "harmful to minors."
As to the nude, which was, apparently, the "offending" detail, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly declared that simple representations of nudity are a constitutionally protected form of artistic expression. The beauty of the human body has inspired painters, photographers, sculptors and choreographers for many centuries. Deeming all nudes "harmful to minors" would place a ban on Praxiteles, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Manet, and Picasso; it would put the Vatican, as well as the streets and public squares of the U.S. capital and other big cities off-limits to minors because of the sculpted and painted nudes that can be seen there.
Banning nudes from view is a concession to the moral views of a small group of people who believe that the human body is an object of shame and should not be seen uncovered. The large and diverse American public as a whole does not share that belief. While we need to respect the right of people to hold a variety of religious and moral beliefs, the government should not embrace the beliefs of one group to the disadvantage of everyone else. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly asserted that the First Amendment bars government officials from censoring works because somebody finds them offensive, sacrilegious, morally improper or otherwise offensive.
NCAC is urging the city of Pilot Point to withdraw the police notice immediately