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Finely v the National Endowment for the Arts One Battle in Americas War over the Arts In June of 1998 the Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of National Endowment for the Arts v Finley deciding to uphold the status quo In an eight to one decision the Supreme Court upheld that Section 954d1 the decency and respect clause passed by congress in 1990 On the surface this judgment is a settlement against public funding of the arts and artistic expression in the United States and by simply up holding the status quo appears to be one of the lesser declarations by the Supreme Court in the area of First Amendment rights It was in reality the fine text of the majority and minority opinions show it to be a case of landmark precedence in the manner in which it was decided highly convoluted and politically expedient pronouncement The Supreme Court used complicated legal maneuverings to support the Endowments creative interpretation of the clause while at the same time avoiding a confrontation with congress general by declaring its clause unconstitutional An action that would rule in favor of the Arts in this country but had a high probability of inflaming congress to further act against a beleaguered National Endowment and the Arts in general The clause which had been challenged by Finely et al on the grounds that it was 1 impermissibly vague under the Fifth Amendment and 2 it violated the First Amendment on its face by imposing content-based restrictions on protected speech Cunnane 1 was part of a greater amendment to the National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities Act enacted by congress in reaction to a public controversy in 1989 In that year two highly controversial works funded by the Endowment caused a severe backlash against the Arts by conservatives The first was a retrospective of the works of Robert Maplethorpe under the title The Perfect Moment This
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