November 17, 2011
Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio
Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn
Dear Bishop DiMarzio:
I am concerned by your recent comments about the newly installed Brooklyn Museum exhibit, "Hide/Seek," specifically its inclusion of the work A Fire in My Belly by the late David Wojnarowicz. While I share your concern for religious liberty and religious tolerance, we disagree about the role of religious liberty in the arts.
When a similar controversy erupted over the same exhibit's display in the National Portrait Gallery last year, we were dismayed by the lack of information and serious discussion that went into the attacks on the museum and the resulting decision by the Smithsonian's leadership to pull A Fire in My Belly from the exhibit. The members of Congress who criticized the exhibit admitted to never even visiting it. Misinformation abounded about the groundbreaking exhibit, the life and work of Wojnarowicz, and the meaning of the compilation of videos that became the center of the controversy.
Our nation's commitment to freedom of artistic expression was brushed aside in an effort to silence a particular point of view. Amidst all this, I was discouraged by the lack of meaningful communication between critics of the exhibit and opponents of censorship -- we often seemed to be speaking different languages.
In an effort to change that this time, I would like to invite you to have a public discussion with People For the American Way Foundation about the interaction of religious liberty and the freedom of expression and how those values play out in "Hide/Seek." I believe it could be an informative way to tackle our differences on the issues of religious tolerance and artistic freedom, and a public service to New Yorkers.
Please let me know if you are willing to engage in a public forum. I would be delighted to work out a time and location that would be convenient for you.
President, People For the American Way Foundation