NCAC joined the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas in a letter to the University of Kansas (KU) strongly urging it to take a stand against censorship by restoring a public artwork that the university removed last week. The joint letter reminds KU that as a public institution it is obligated to protect the First Amendment rights of its students and faculty. Read the full letter.
Original Post 7/12/2018:
Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach separately pressured officials at the University of Kansas (KU) to remove an art display, threatening the free expression of the artist, curator and KU students. The National Coalition Against Censorship is calling on Colyer and Kobach to encourage KU to return the art to its original location and cease their attempts to chill free speech at a public university.
The artwork, Untitled (Flag 2) by Josephine Meckseper, is part of an ongoing installation organized by Creative Time that included sixteen commissioned flags by different artists, simultaneously displayed at partner sites nationwide. Meckseper’s work is a collage of an American flag and an abstract painting of the contours of the United States divided in two, symbolizing current national polarization. Deeming the piece a “desecration” of the flag, Colyer and Kobach publicly called for its removal.
The Supreme Court has held that restrictions on use of the flag in art and protest violate the First Amendment [United States v. Eichman (1990)]. In Texas v. Johnson (1989), the Court found that ““We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”
In their statements, both Colyer and Kobach suggested that publicly-funded institutions should not “promote” this type of art, but, in fact, it is precisely public institutions like KU that are bound by the US Constitution to refrain from viewpoint censorship.
Originally displayed outside The Commons, a campus space for “unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, and unexpected discoveries across the sciences, arts, and humanities,” the artwork has been relocated to an indoor display at KU’s Spencer Museum of Art.
NCAC’s full letter to Colyer and Kobach can be read below. Click here for a full screen view: