Silvia Cossich Goodman, with censored painting. Photo by Robert Tong courtesy of

As blogged earlier this week, admins at the Marin Civic Center censored a painting of a nude female from an annual art show because an employee claimed it constituted sexual harassment.

This morning, NCAC and the First Amendment Project sent Marin County a letter to show them the error of their ways. In it, we sought to explain that:

  • One painting of a naked lady in a contemporary art exhibit does not constitute sexual harassment. Even if you don’t like paintings of naked people it still is not, and cannot be perceived as, the kind of systemic, repeated behavior that creates a “hostile work environment” and therefore sexual harassment.
  • As a public space opened to exhibiting artwork, Marin Civic Center has First Amendment obligations to refrain from censoring work based on personal views. The courts say public officials can’t pull strings to get rid of artwork that they personally don’t like. That includes art featuring naked people. That even includes art featuring naked people in a venue where children might see it. The children WILL BE FINE. Really.
  • When Marin Civic Center officials censored that painting, they not only abridged Silvia Cossich Goodman’s right to free expression, they also did a disservice to the people of Marin County by not letting them evaluate art for themselves.

These local incidents of censorship are important because, if we let them slide, they build precedents that can be used to hurt free expression in the future. We truly hope that Marin Civic Center will immediately reinstate Goodman’s painting, take this as a teachable moment, and not resort to a legal fight.

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