William J. Ivey, Chairman
National Endowment for the Arts
The Nancy Hanks Center
1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20506-0001
Dear Chairman Ivey,
We are writing to urge you to reconsider your decision to withdraw funding for The Story of Color, the Mexican folktale for children published by Cinco Puntos Press.
According to press reports, the decision was based on concern that some of the grant money would be used to support the Zapatista movement in Mexico, with which the book's author, Subcommandante Marcos, is affiliated. The publisher denies that the author will receive any of the grant money, or indeed any payment for the book, however. Particularly without any objective examination of the facts surrounding the grant application, the decision to revoke the grant appears intended to deflect criticism of the National Endowment for the Arts based on Marcos's political activities.
The decision to revoke this grant is especially disturbing in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in NEA v. Finley. As the Court noted, "the NEA's mandate is to make aesthetic judgments." The review panel did so, and decided that The Story of Color merited support. The decision to deny funding, based not on an aesthetic judgment but on the political views of the author, was explicitly considered and rejected by the Court:
If the NEA were to leverage its power to award subsidies…into a penalty on disfavored viewpoints, then we would confront a different case. We have stated that, even in the provision of subsidies, the Government may not ‘ai[m] at the suppression of dangerous ideas’….
We strongly urge you to reconsider your decision in light of the Finley case. Moreover, we believe that the Supreme Court's opinion can be a shield with which to deflect criticism of NEA decisions made in deference to its constitutional obligations.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these issues.
In addition to NCAC, this letter was signed by:
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Civil Liberties Union
Freedom to Read Foundation
PEN American Center