(House of Representatives - April 26, 2017)

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[Pages H2880-H2887]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                              {time}  1600

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2017, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Clay) is recognized 
for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.

                             General Leave

  Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 
5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and to include 
any extraneous material on the subject of my special order.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Missouri?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, 10 months ago, I was pleased to welcome David 
Pulphus, a very talented young constituent of mine from St. Louis, to 
the U.S. Capitol complex, as we unveiled his painting entitled, 
Untitled #1, which you see here tonight.
  David's work was a unanimous first-place winner in the annual 
Congressional Art Competition in Missouri's First Congressional 
District. I have been pleased to sponsor this competition in St. Louis 
for the last 16 years without interruption and incident.
  For those of you who may not know, many other Members of Congress 
conduct this contest in their districts as well. In fact, this painting 
was one of more than 400 student entries from across the Nation that 
were reviewed, accepted, and approved last June for public display in 
the Cannon tunnel by the Architect of the Capitol. Members of Congress 
do not select the artists. We do not approve or disapprove of any of 
the artistic concepts, and we have no role in judging the competition.
  We simply provide a public forum for the most talented young artists 
in our districts to display their winning artwork in the U.S. Capitol 
complex. Yet, without cause or reasonable process and after being 
viewed repeatedly by Members of Congress, congressional staffers, and 
thousands of visitors without incident or concern, my constituent's 
winning entry was removed in an act of politically motivated, 
unconstitutional, retroactive censorship.
  That injustice was initiated by pressure from certain alternative-
right bloggers and Mr. Eric Bolling, a host on FOX News channel, who 
created a mean-spirited and factually inaccurate media campaign to 
improve his ratings on the back of a young man, and to ultimately force 
the painting to be removed by the Architect of the Capitol.
  After repeated acts of petty theft by renegade Members of Congress 
who removed the painting without any authorization and after a storm of 
rightwing media pressure, the Speaker of the House forced the Architect 
of the Capitol to trample on the rights of my constituent by ruling 
that this painting, which he had already approved 10 months ago, was 
retroactively disqualified.
  This unwarranted, arbitrary, and unconstitutional act of censorship 
will not stand. Now, let me be clear: I do not approve or disapprove of 
this painting. I did not approve or disapprove the concept of the 
artwork. I did not judge the competition, but the Architect of the 
Capitol reviewed, approved, and accepted this student's artwork for 
public display without incident, comment, or concern, just like every 
other entry that is displayed in this public exhibition.
  Only after the most hateful, intolerant, and reckless media campaign, 
combined with enormous political pressure from the Speaker and other 
Members, the Architect of the Capitol miraculously traveled back in 
time to disqualify the very same painting that he had approved 10 
months ago.
  Perhaps we should advise the National Academy of Sciences of the 
Architect of the Capitol's newfound ability to bend the space-time 
continuum in order to retroactively respond to the most extreme voices 
in the majority so that they could more easily suppress the rights of 
my young constituent. It did great harm to an innocent young man who 
tried to do the right thing.
  Because of this outrageous act of censorship, David Pulphus has been 
subjected to the most vile, racist, and hateful attacks on social media 
and on talk radio. He has also been deprived of the honor of listing 
his first place victory in the Congressional Art Competition on his 
resume. He has even been attacked by the Speaker of the House who 
called his award winning work ``disgusting.''
  So on top of depriving David of his First Amendment rights, the 
majority and the Architect of the Capitol have placed a terrible 
personal burden on this bright, talented young man. David does not 
deserve that. That is wrong. That is totally unacceptable, and the 
Speaker and the Architect of the Capitol should be ashamed of 
  This shameful decision also sent a chilling message to young 
Americans. It told young Americans that their views are not valued. 
Their voices are not respected. Their creativity and passions are not 
welcome, and that is, sadly, here, in the people's House, their First 
Amendment rights are no longer protected. That is a terrible precedent 
to set for future generations who look to us to defend their freedoms.
  So my friends, this is really not about a student art competition 
anymore. It is about defending the Constitution. It is just pathetic 
that some Republican Members and rightwing media types who constantly 
refer to

[[Page H2881]]

themselves as constitutional conservatives don't think that that same 
document protects the fundamental free speech rights of my young 
  You can be certain that I will fight to defend this young man's right 
to express himself because his artwork is true for him, and he is 
entitled to that protection under the law.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers).
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Mr. Clay for his discussion 
here. I think it is courageous and necessary. To begin with, the 
painting's removal by the Architect of the Capitol was an infringement 
on the free speech rights of the artist and on the Congressman, 
yourself, Mr. Clay, from Missouri.
  The First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that: 
``Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech. . . 
. '' And it is undisputed that the First Amendment's free speech 
guarantee extends to artistic expression, including visual arts. This 
is true even when such expression may be offensive to many people or to 
some people.
  While Members who removed the artist's painting may have acted based 
on their belief that the artwork's viewpoint was offensive, that belief 
cannot trump the free-speech rights of the artist and of you, yourself, 
Congressman Clay. I congratulate you for putting this discussion into 
the Record.
  Mr. Speaker. This past January within the very confines of the 
Capitol complex, we witnessed a direct assault against the First 
Amendment when several Republican Members of Congress unilaterally 
removed a painting by high school senior David Pulphus from the 2016. 
Congressional Art Competition display in the Cannon Tunnel.
  The painting, sponsored by our colleague--Representative William Lacy 
Clay--had been displayed in the Cannon Tunnel along with more than 400 
winners of the Art Competition for nearly 7 months without incident or 
  And, rather than upholding the artist's right to free expression and 
Representative Clay's prerogative to sponsor student artwork from his 
district, the Architect of the Capitol capitulated to political 
pressure generated by the right-wing media outlets and ratified these 
Members' acts of vigilante censorship by having the painting 
permanently removed from the Congressional Art Competition display in 
the Cannon Tunnel.
  This artwork, seemingly inspired by the events in Ferguson, Missouri 
in 2014 and other incidents that sparked tension between police and 
minority communities, depicts a protest, with two police officers and a 
young man facing each other in a standoff, all of three which have 
animalistic features.
  In the background, protesters look on and a young man of color 
appears to be depicted in a crucifixion tableau.
  Whatever message one draws from this painting, several things are 
quite clear.
  To begin with, the painting's removal by the Architect of the Capitol 
was an infringement on the free speech rights of Mr. Pulphus and 
Representative Clay.
  The First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that 
``Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.''
  And, it is undisputed that the First Amendment's free speech 
guarantee extends to artistic expression, including visual art.
  This is true even when such expression may be deeply offensive to 
many people.
  As the Supreme Court recognized in F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, the 
``fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient 
reason for suppressing it. Indeed, if it is the speaker's opinion that 
gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it 
constitutional protection.''
  While the Members who removed Mr. Pulphus's painting may have acted 
based on their belief that the artwork's viewpoint was offensive, that 
belief cannot trump the free speech rights of the artist and 
Representative Clay.
  Nor does it justify the Architect's removal of the painting in 
response to pressure from these and other Members who found the 
painting offensive.
  Once the House established the Congressional Art Competition and 
opened the Cannon Tunnel to display artwork sponsored by each 
individual Member office, it created a limited public forum.
  Having created such a forum, individual House Members and the 
Architect cannot then constitutionally discriminate against expression 
within that forum based on the viewpoint expressed.
  Yet, that is precisely what happened here.
  Unfortunately, the painting's removal was part of a broader pattern 
of behavior by the Majority to undermine the fundamental right of free 
expression in the House.
  For instance, in January the House adopted an unconstitutional gag 
rule that would allow the imposition of fines of up to $2,500 on a 
Member for using an electronic device to record, post, or live-stream 
activity on the House floor.
  This rule was a thinly-veiled response to the protest undertaken last 
year by Democratic Members on the House floor with regard to the 
Majority's failure to consider comprehensive gun reform.
  The rule is a direct attack against the Minority's right to political 
expression and it is clearly intended to stifle the American public's 
ability to access that expression.
  While it is easy to think that these matters concern only one young 
artist or a group of House Members, every American should be deeply 
concerned about such kinds of censorship.
  Tyranny starts in small ways. Censor a painting here, a poem there. 
Ban photos in some instances, videos in others.
  When such seemingly minor acts go unanswered, it invites more 
oppressive conduct in the future.
  Ensuring freedom requires vigilance and a willingness to push back 
vigorously against every instance of censorship.
  This is why I applaud the federal lawsuit filed by Mr. Pulphus and 
Representative Clay seeking to vindicate their free speech rights 
though it is shameful that they were forced to go to court at all.
  And, while the trial court incorrectly concluded that the First 
Amendment does not protect Mr. Pulphus and Representative Clay, I am 
confident this conclusion will be overturned on appeal.
  All Americans must be free to speak truth to power.
  Therefore, it is imperative that we draw a line in the sand now, lest 
we encourage further and even more troubling acts of censorship in the 
  Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Michigan, the ranking 
member of the House Judiciary Committee.
  At this time, I yield to the gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. 
Adams), my friend, an art education Ph.D., a gallery owner and artist, 
and member of the Congressional Arts Caucus.
  Ms. ADAMS. Mr. Speaker, I want to, first of all, thank my colleague 
from Missouri, Representative Clay, for his concern, for his courage, 
for standing up and speaking up to ensure that his constituents' and 
others' First Amendment rights are protected by this Congress, and for 
organizing this Special Order hour this evening.
  I appreciate very much the opportunity to join Representative Clay, 
and I proudly stand with him and my other colleagues to speak in 
defense of the First Amendment rights afforded to citizens of the 
Constitution of the United States.
  As the 12th District Representative from North Carolina, as a 
practicing professional artist and art educator, as a curator, as a 
retired 40-year college arts professor, I am pleased to join with 
Representative Clay in expressing my support for freedom of visual 
expression and creativity, especially when it comes to supporting 
talented young students.
  I have learned through my professional arts education and management 
careers that, yes, the arts are nice, but, beyond being nice, they are 
absolutely necessary and essential in helping enrich our lives. The 
arts are unique to our being, and they are what make us human.
  Artists connect the past to the present, they convey our unique 
experiences, and they are presented in many forms--sometimes familiar, 
other times unfamiliar. The arts are a universal language that speak to 
people everywhere to help them to understand diversity, cultures, and 
some of the most complicated of issues. Therefore, having the freedom 
to make art is essential to creative expression.
  Freedom of expression is everyone's freedom. And our Founding Fathers 
enshrined the expressions of freedom of speech in all forms--in music, 
in written and spoken word, in theater, and through visual imagery and 
composition--in the Bill of Rights.
  Under the First Amendment, all art forms and all artistic expressions 
are constitutionally protected. Our Founding Fathers who created our 
country and launched our Nation as the world's role model in democracy 
believed that freedom of speech and freedom of the press were important 
enough to guarantee protection in our country's

[[Page H2882]]

founding documents. If our Founding Fathers, the brightest minds of 
that generation, thought that artistic expression was important enough 
to protect in our Bill of Rights, then what right do we have to take 
this away and censor the artistic community?
  The ACLU said: ``. . . a free society is based on the principle that 
each and every individual has the right to decide what art or 
entertainment he or she wants--or does not want--to receive or create. 
Once you allow the government to censor someone else, you cede to it 
the power to censor you, or something you like. Censorship is like 
poison gas: A powerful weapon that can harm you when the wind shifts.''
  As a nation, we face many threats, both internally and externally. We 
are a Nation of diverse thought, diverse people, and strong diverse 
principles. However, when we stand by and allow our artistic community 
to be censored or allow threats to silence our press, we become our own 
greatest threat. And when we reject facts and censor artistic 
expression just because it makes us uncomfortable or because we don't 
like it, we are becoming the tyrants that our Founding Fathers risked 
their lives to protect and escape from.
  So the question of what is appropriate art is not a new question. 
Since the beginning of our country, our citizens have wrestled with 
what to do when they are offended by a work or art in any form. Court 
case after court case has tested governmental censorship of artistic 
expression, and the Supreme Court has continued to uphold our founding 
principles of freedom of expression and speech.
  In the 1931 case, Stromberg v. California, the Supreme Court ruled 
that symbolic speech is protected by the First Amendment. The ruling 
ensured that all art forms, music, paintings, plays, and other artistic 
expressions are protected by the First Amendment.
  In the 1982 decision, the Board of Education v. Pico, the Supreme 
Court ruled that local school boards may not remove books from school 
library shelves simply because they disliked the ideas contained in 
those books. Like the removal of the books from libraries, the removal 
of Mr. Pulphus' painting was a blatant violation of his First Amendment 
  The First Amendment guarantees that our government cannot make 
substantive decisions about the content of a work of art. Expression 
can only be limited if, and only if, that expression will cause direct 
and imminent harm such as yelling ``fire'' in a crowded theater.

                              {time}  1615

  Our government's role is not to censor but to ensure that artists are 
able to freely express themselves without fear of censorship. Our 
government did not protect this young man's First Amendment rights. 
Instead, it acted as a retroactive censor on his work.
  Here is an example of our government making a decision based on 
content they disapproved of and preventing this work because of its 
subject and because some legislators weren't knowledgeable enough about 
it to understand it from being displayed in a public place.
  Justice Louis Brandeis, in his defense of free speech, wrote:

       It is hazardous to discourage thought and hope and 
     imagination; that fear breeds repression, and that repression 
     breeds hate, and that hate menaces stable government. The 
     path to safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely 
     supposed grievances and proposed remedies.

  Justice Brandeis' words were written in 1927, 90 years ago, almost a 
century, but they still echo true today. Censorship out of fear, out of 
misunderstanding or pain or dislike of a work is fundamentally anti-
American and unconstitutional.
  For more than 4 decades as a visual arts professor, I taught my 
students that you are going to see a lot of art throughout your 
lifetime. Some images you will like and some you won't especially like. 
And some will be disturbing and some confusing. But I reminded my 
students that their responsibility as viewers was to make every attempt 
to be able to say that you don't like it because you at least 
understand it.
  Mr. Speaker, knowledge is power. Mr. Pulphus' work did not create 
direct or imminent harm, but his work did depict an uncomfortable 
reality that is pervasive across our country.
  Unfortunately, violence is a way of life in many communities 
throughout America. As a matter of fact, it is too prevalent. But for 
this young man, violence in his community was a life that he knew most 
of his life. It was a life he was intrinsically as an artist compelled 
to visually talk about on his canvas.
  As a matter of fact, he had a right to talk about it, and, in 
reality, he needed to talk about it. I admire him for his courage. As a 
teacher, I can tell you that, visually, his utilization of 
compositional elements and principles and forms showed an extraordinary 
  In my estimation, we failed as viewers to do our part, and we didn't 
make an effort to really see, but we just merely looked at the work. 
But most especially, we didn't seize the opportunity to learn so that 
we could enhance our capacity to build and reinforce positive 
relationships in our community.
  This painting offered us a chance to have a real conversation about 
race and police and community violence and institutional racism. But 
instead of seizing this opportunity, we have to continue to fight to 
protect this young artist's First Amendment rights.
  Heated debate and discussion is the hallmark of our democracy. 
However, when arguments are censored, when the artists are told what 
they are able to produce, when expression is silenced, our democracy is 
then threatened.
  And since this incident, as you have heard, the Congressional 
Institute has changed the rules for the Congressional Art Competition. 
Work submitted to the competition depicting contemporary political 
controversy or sensationalist or gruesome nature are not allowed.
  But I am not here to criticize the work of the Congressional 
Institute, but as a professional artist myself, only to ask this 
question: What benefit can come from limiting our young artists from 
  A democracy works when people stay engaged, when people participate. 
But by censoring what is in our public spaces, we are creating barriers 
for political discourse and we are creating fear of retaliation.
  Artists are visual storytellers and we are entrusted with a unique 
responsibility to use the power of the arts to inform, to educate, and 
to empower our communities.
  Noted African-American artist and scholar Dr. Samella Lewis of 
California said that ``African-American artists have a primary 
obligation to community, to understand, and to use the elements of 
their cultural heritage to produce an art that is diverse, reflecting 
our diverse interests, materials techniques, and to communicate those 
messages to the audiences we want to reach.''
  Removing this young man's work was a degrading and insensitive 
action, which signaled to this young, aspiring, gifted student that his 
work is valueless, that his story is not worthy to be told. But most 
especially, it put into question the right and the responsibility that 
he has as an artist to express himself in visual imagery and symbolic 
  It is not up to the government to decide what work has value or whose 
story should be told. The removal of Mr. Pulphus' work sets a dangerous 
precedent. Congress is now making content decisions on works displayed 
in the U.S. Capitol and is limiting what types of art will be 
exhibited. To some, this issue may not seem important, but the scope of 
the actions that have taken place in the U.S. Capitol is tremendous.
  Just because somebody's sensibility is offended doesn't give that 
person the right to ban or censor a work. In fact, the First Amendment 
prevents that.
  However, as this gross overreach of power in removing his work 
proves, just because the Constitution prevents something doesn't always 
mean that it won't happen. But it is our duty to hold our government 
responsible for protecting the sanctity of the Constitution and the 
Bill of Rights.
  That is why I am honored, as a 40-year arts educator, as a member of 
the Congressional Art Caucus, and as a professional artist to join 
Representative Clay and all of my colleagues in speaking today about 
the importance of the First Amendment as it relates to the creative and 
the professional obligations and rights of the visual artist.
  Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from North Carolina 

[[Page H2883]]

her thoughts, her words, as well as her expertise in the field of art. 
She is probably the only qualified art critic serving in Congress 
today. So thank I thank her so much.

  Mr. Speaker, at this time I yield to the gentleman from Tennessee 
(Mr. Cohen), my friend, an attorney and former legal adviser to the 
Memphis Police Department.
  Mr. COHEN. Mr. Speaker, I, indeed, also enjoyed the remarks that just 
preceded me and that Mr. Conyers made and Mr. Clay made concerning this 
  I rise today in support of art, freedom of expression, freedom of 
speech, but also Black Lives Matter and police officers who follow the 
rules, which 98 percent or more do, who treat citizens appropriately 
and risk their lives to keep us safe. And I mourn each officer that 
loses their life or is injured in protecting us and having ordered 
  But I rise in opposition to censorship, which is anathema to me, and 
police officers who go beyond the law--that percentage that do--and 
soil the badge they wear and use deadly force inappropriately, which 
has occurred too many times sometimes because they just don't react 
properly in the heat of battle, sometimes for other reasons, too often 
upon Black people, which does tend to indicate a prejudice that exists 
in certain people's minds. Black lives do matter, and people haven't 
recognized that, and we need to.
  The removal of David Pulphus' painting from the Cannon tunnel is 
troubling on many levels. It raises serious questions about Congress' 
commitment to the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of 
expression. We take an oath to support the Constitution and should do 
so in our actions as well as our words, as well as in our oath.
  Benjamin Franklin warned us that freedom of speech is a principal 
pillar of a free government. When this support is taken away, the 
constitution of a free society is dissolved.
  Secondly, it raises serious questions about censorship. 
Unfortunately, in my hometown of Memphis, we have a history that is 
sometimes not so good on particular cases of race and free expression.
  That long history of artistic censorship oftentimes related to race 
as well as sex, and for nearly 3 decades, in the early part of the 20th 
century, Memphis had a censor, a public censor, appointed by the 
government named Lloyd T. Binford. He served as the chairman of the 
Memphis Board of Censors. They banned movies. They banned movies like 
``Curley'' in the 1940s because it showed White and Black children in 
school together.
  He prevented Memphians from seeing major celebrities like Lena Horne, 
Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway in our local movie 
theaters. He was a racist. ``Binfordizing'' became a word. Artistic 
words that were wrong and Congress must be ever mindful of the slippery 
slope of censorship.
  Thirdly, and perhaps most important, this painting raises serious 
questions about public policy. Congress should be debating questions of 
public policy, not banning expressions of them.
  The events that took place in Ferguson, Missouri, which are well 
expressed by this painting, were a wake-up call to many in our Nation 
about police use of deadly force, injustice in our inner cities, and 
turmoil rising in our inner cities.
  Sobering questions about the fairness of our criminal justice system 
and about race were raised. And a painting such as this that reflects 
those issues is most appropriate for display in the hallway where these 
paintings and artworks are shown because it is representative of a 
major slice of America in that year.
  That, more than most other paintings and artworks there, show 
something that is relevant to what is happening today and has occupied 
the news in a major way.
  For too long, justice has seemed too lacking, and we saw it in 
Ferguson. Mr. Clay and I have worked together for display of this 
artwork. I questioned some professors on another issue, lawyers that 
specialize in First Amendment issues, speech issues in the Judiciary 
Committee, and to a one they said it appeared to be censorship and was 
wrong and was violative.
  Of course there is some talk that, well, it is government speech and 
maybe that is different. But you know some of the same people that have 
opposed this painting are the same people that say the rules should 
apply to Congress. Whatever laws we pass should apply to Congressmen 
the same as they apply to other people, and we shouldn't have special 
privileges. But those people decided on their own to exempt a painting 
they found distasteful which wouldn't have been prohibited anyplace 
else because of free speech. They violated their own precepts; the same 
precepts they may be violating today in other rooms where they are 
discussing a health bill that will exempt them from the health bill 
sanctions or requirements and not require them, if they live in a 
State, to not have the essential benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
  So I rise today to commend Congressman Clay for his work, to thank 
him for his work with me and Senator Duckworth on the Police Training 
and Independent Review Act, which the need for is expressed here in 
this artwork. That is why it is so important.
  This communicates a story. Beauty is wonderful, and a lot of the 
artwork is photographs and beauty. Nice. Fine. Places, fine. Content 
and ideas are more important. It is always more important to have 
artwork that challenges your mind and makes you think: What is this 
  As I look at this painting and I think about it, sure, there are a 
couple of police officers--two police officers in particular--in a 
certain manner of being displayed. But there is a third police officer 
on the right that is not shown this same way. And if you look at this 
painting, you can see this painting says: not all police officers are 
the same. Some are questionable, some aren't. It revolved around a 
major incident in our city, St. Louis, Ferguson, but the arch is in 
there and expresses that well.
  This painting should not have been removed. Congressman Clay is right 
to stand up for the First Amendment and for his constituent.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to help restore this painting to 
its rightful place in the Cannon tunnel and to allow people to see it 
and make their own decisions.

  Mr. Speaker, I thank you and appreciate being a part of this.
  Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, let me also thank my friend from Tennessee who 
happens to be a member of the House Judiciary Committee. As he stated, 
we are working together on police reform legislation. I appreciate his 
  Mr. COHEN. And I am an art critic.
  Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, he is an art critic.
  Mr. Speaker, at this time I yield to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. 
Raskin), my friend, a Constitutional scholar and professor.
  Mr. RASKIN. Mr. Speaker, I thank Mr. Clay for convening us this 
evening to discuss this very important matter.
  Why is it so important?
  Well, we live in a time of rampant official lawlessness and 
disrespect for the Constitution of the United States.
  But I am not here to talk about the Emoluments Clause or the power of 
Congress to declare war, or about equal protection. I am here to join 
my colleagues in talking about an incident of artistic discrimination 
committed by this institution, an assault on the First Amendment.
  Why is it so important?
  I was thinking about a professor I had who wrote a book about broken 
windows. The thesis of the book basically was that if windows are 
broken in the neighborhood and nothing is done about it, it sends the 
message that you can go on to bigger and better things. In other words, 
petty crimes and misdemeanors unaddressed go on to become high crimes 
and misdemeanors.
  When we started the 115th Congress, unfortunately, within the first 
week or two, we started with a broken Constitutional window, Mr. Clay, 
because we allowed, we tolerated, and we countenanced an act of 
vigilante discrimination and censorship by certain Members against 
speech by the constituents of other Members.
  So I want to tell the story to the people of America, especially the 
young people of America, who have open minds and open hearts, and I am 
delighted that so many young people are in the chamber tonight to hear 
about what happened here because this is a very important moment in the 
history of this institution.

[[Page H2884]]


                              {time}  1630

  Now, I am a professor of constitutional law by training. I did that 
for 25 years before I came to Congress, and I teach, also, the First 
  There are six rights contained in the First Amendment, and I hope all 
of you learn the six rights. They are: the right to petition for a 
redress of grievances; the free exercise of religion; the right of 
assembly; the right of free press; the right of no establishment of 
religion; and then, last but certainly not least, the right of freedom 
of speech.
  Here in Congress, since 1982, we have had a Congressional Arts 
Competition. It is a magnificent statement of American values. We 
invite Members from every district in America--there are 435 districts 
here, plus five Delegates who come from territories or the District of 
Columbia--so there are a total of 440 that are eligible.
  Each one impanels a group of artists. They have a whole process, and 
the best artwork is adjudicated and then brought to Washington. You can 
find them in the tunnel connecting the Cannon House Office Building to 
the Capitol Building, to the Chamber where we are right now. There are 
hundreds of beautiful, extraordinary, interesting, vivacious, 
controversial paintings done by the young people of America.
  So what is the issue? Well, we are living in a time of political 
correctness. Let's say it plain. Sometimes the political correctness 
comes from the left. It happened recently at Berkeley in California, 
where the college canceled a planned appearance by Ann Coulter, a 
rightwing commentator whose views are totally anathema to me, but they 
canceled her speech.
  Now, in fairness to Berkeley, they said there had been violence there 
and they thought there might be violence again. But there was such a 
storm of outrage about this example of a kind of leftwing political 
correctness, they reversed the decision and they said she could come. 
They understood it was their responsibility to make sure that her 
speech could proceed without being disrupted and broken up, so they did 
the right thing.
  What are we experiencing here right where you sit in the Congress of 
the United States, in the House of Representatives? We are experiencing 
an example of a rightwing political correctness run amok. It is 
rightwing political censorship because some people didn't like somebody 
else's expression. Instead of walking on to the next painting, they 
decided to take it down, remove it, and return it to the office of 
Congressman Clay. Not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, 
but five times they took this painting down.
  Congressman Clay and I wrote a letter to Speaker Ryan protesting this 
act of vigilante censorship right here in the Congress of the United 
States. Speaker Ryan, instead of standing up for the First Amendment, 
instead of standing up for the Speech and Debate Clause, instead of 
standing up for artistic expression, instead of standing up for freedom 
and teaching a lesson to the young people of America, he called the 
painting disgusting and then initiated an official process whereby they 
censored it. For the first time in the history of this competition 
going back to 1982, 35 years, they censored a painting.
  Now, luckily they have made this young artist one of the most famous 
artists in America now, and we can all wish him nothing but magnificent 
fortune as he goes ahead to develop his skills and his artistic voice. 
They were not able, I hope, to crush the spirit of this young man, but 
they did something really deeply injurious to the Republic of the 
United States. They engaged in an act of naked viewpoint discrimination 
against a work of art.
  Now, what are the constitutional values here that need to be 
vindicated for artists like David Pulphus or the winner from my 
district last year, Alannah Van Horn, who did a self-portrait?
  Let's just be clear about one thing: these paintings hung for 6 
months before the vigilante censors in the House of Representatives 
decided to come and take them down. For 6 months, they didn't harm 
anybody, they didn't hurt anybody, they didn't cause a riot, they 
didn't cause a ruckus, nothing--until they decided somehow that this 
painting ran afoul of their political correctness litmus test for what 
is acceptable in Congress.
  So what is really at stake here? Well, first of all, it is the rights 
of the Member who sponsored this painting.
  I want to say I am so impressed by the courage and the strength and 
the determination of Representative Clay to stand with his constituent 
and his constituency as well as with the Constitution here.
  He brought a First Amendment lawsuit with Mr. Pulphus not for money, 
not for damages, but for a preliminary and permanent injunction against 
congressional censorship of this painting. So they went to court.
  They had a very simple argument. The First Amendment says Congress 
shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. That is it. That is 
one of the six rights that I referenced when I opened my speech. 
Congress can't sensor speech.
  Congress just censored speech.
  The judge in the case, Judge Bates of the United States District 
Court, rendered a fascinating opinion. He found that this was indeed a 
clear case of viewpoint discrimination. It was censorship based on the 
views or the perspective of the artist. There was little doubt, he 
said, the government was engaged in a blatant act of viewpoint 
  There are lots of cases that make clear that viewpoint discrimination 
is unacceptable in the United States, like Rosenberger v. University of 
Virginia, which said that UVA could not set up a program for young 
journalists and newspapers and magazines at UVA and exclude those from 
a religious point of view. The Court said, if you are going to set up a 
forum for speech like that, you can't single out one point of view and 
then suppress it.
  It was the same idea in Texas v. Johnson in 1995, when the Supreme 
Court said that the right to burn a flag as a political protest is 
constitutionally protected. You don't have to agree with it, but other 
people have the right to burn the flag if it is their flag. That is 
their property.

  The Court pointed out also that, in America, flag burning is the 
proper mode of flag disposal. If you look at the flag treatment 
protocol, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts burn flags all the time. So, if 
you punish someone for burning a flag, you are punishing them for a 
thought crime; you are not punishing them for an action which is done 
all the time in the United States.
  In any event, the Court says viewpoint discrimination is 
unacceptable. Nonetheless, Judge Bates said that Congressman Clay 
doesn't win. Why? It is because of where it took place. He said that 
the hallway in the Cannon House Office Building leading to the Capitol 
is not a public forum of any kind. It is not a traditional public forum 
like a street or park. It is not a limited public forum, something that 
is set up for the expression of speech, which is precisely what you 
would think it is. It is not even a nonpublic forum, Judge Bates says. 
Judge Bates says that the 440 paintings down there are government 
  Now, that doesn't make any sense. We have lots of people who are in 
the gallery tonight, and I assume you passed by these paintings on the 
way over. If you didn't, check them out.
  I challenge anybody in America to go down to the tunnel and look at 
the paintings and regard the magnificent diversity of views and 
perspectives embodied in this one painting, for example, and say that 
it is government speech. In fact, the reason it was censored is because 
it wasn't government speech.
  Yet, the court got it wrong. Now, I am not going to say really nasty 
things about him. I am not President of the United States. I am not 
going to say that he is a nonjudge or a so-called judger. I think that 
he made a serious mistake. I think the D.C. Circuit will reverse it. I 
think the U.S. Supreme Court would reverse it.
  You know what? It doesn't make any difference, because everyone who 
has the honor of serving in this Chamber takes an oath to the 
Constitution of the United States. We have got to uphold the First 
Amendment. That is a responsibility that we have got. And we can't just 
say, ``Oh, we will let a court deal with it.'' We have got to deal with 
the First Amendment.
  And it is very clear--the court said it itself--this was viewpoint 
discrimination. That is unacceptable. And we

[[Page H2885]]

should say that, yes, the Constitution applies in the Congress of the 
United States. We don't hold ourselves exempt from it. We don't say, if 
we set up a forum for young artists to bring their paintings in, that 
we are speaking. That doesn't make any sense. They are the ones 
  So where do we go from here?
  Well, we are appealing to Speaker Ryan and to our friends in the 
majority to back off of the regime of rightwing political correctness. 
Just like it was wrong for Berkeley to try to sensor Ann Coulter, as 
much as many of us abhor everything she says and stands for, it is 
equally wrong for the Republican majority here to sensor Mr. Pulphus 
for your subjective interpretation of what his painting means.
  One of the reasons why the Supreme Court has always said you can't 
sensor art is because art is polysemous. What does that mean? It means 
it is open to multiple possible significances. Who is to say what this 
painting means or what Guernica means?
  Guernica, by the way, would certainly be censored under the 
principles that are being advanced here because it is sensationalistic 
or it deals with contemporary controversy. I mean, what art doesn't 
deal with contemporary controversy? I mean, it just doesn't make any 
sense what they are saying.
  So I think that the majority should really rethink whether it wants 
to be in the business of censorship. This is not Russia. This is not 
Azerbaijan. This is not Saudi Arabia. This is not Iran. This is the 
United States of America.
  People have a right to paint the painting that they want. If you 
don't like the painting, you go to the next painting. You don't take it 
down, especially in the Congress of the United States where we should 
be setting an example. Justice Brandeis said government is the 
omnipresent teacher to the people of the constitutional values of the 
whole society.
  Now, we have got one other serious problem I want to mention before I 
go because, you see, before they engaged in this act of censorship 
against this young artist who was from St. Louis who was obviously 
upset about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, and painted this 
painting which I think is actually a very interesting, captivating 
painting that reminds me of Picasso's Guernica and clearly evokes 
themes from George Orwell's ``Animal Farm,'' before they did that, you 
didn't have to agree with any particular painting or sculpture or 
artwork in the Capitol complex, right?

  We have great champions of freedom and justice in the Republic who 
are portrayed all over the Capitol complex, like Abraham Lincoln, for 
example, like Rosa Parks, like Martin Luther King, like Lyndon Johnson, 
like Sojourner Truth.
  You know what? We also have people who are traitors to the country, 
people who were Confederate conspirators against the United States, 
like John Breckinridge, a guy who served as a U.S. Senator and as Vice 
President of the United States and then defected from the Union, took 
up arms against the United States of America, and was declared a 
traitor and stripped of his titles as a former Vice President and a 
former Senator.
  There is Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. There is 
a statue of him up. Robert E. Lee, obviously the general for the 
Confederacy during the Civil War. There is John C. Calhoun, who 
defected from the Union and took up arms against us.
  So we have these portraits, statues, and busts of great Americans who 
stood for freedom, justice, and equality in America and the 
Constitution. And we have people who got themselves into trouble and, I 
think, brought disgrace to themselves with what they did. But they were 
all up together.
  Now that we are entering into a new area of authoritarian thought 
control and censorship and political correctness in Congress, how can 
we have a statue of John Breckinridge up in the Capitol complex? How 
can we have Jefferson Davis up in the Capitol complex?
  If this is government speech, now we are going to have to litigate 
each one of these artistic displays to see whether or not they are 
actually consistent with the values of the United States Congress and 
consistent with the values of the U.S. Constitution. Is that where we 
want to go?
  I invite my colleagues--I beseech my colleagues--don't take us there. 
Reverse this act of censorship against this young man. Don't set out to 
crush his spirit. Don't step on the First Amendment. Show America that 
we believe in the Constitution. Otherwise, we are going to be engaged 
in some very interesting discussions about the kinds of artwork that 
are found all over the Capitol campus.
  I just want to salute, again, Congressman Clay for bringing us 
together and all of my colleagues who have come forward to stand up for 
the First Amendment tonight.

                              {time}  1645

  Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, let me thank my friend from Maryland who, as 
we heard, his 25 years of knowledge on the U.S. Constitution bodes well 
for this entire body, and I appreciate his friendship and his support.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Illinois (Ms. 
Schakowsky), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
  Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Mr. Speaker, I was sitting in my office watching this 
debate, and I really appreciate the opportunity to come down. I ran 
down the stairs because I wanted to speak to this issue.
  Now, it really doesn't matter what anybody in here thinks about what 
I think is a pretty amazing piece of art. Under the banner of artistic 
discovery--that is the competition that we have, artistic discovery--we 
are inviting young people, high school students, to express themselves, 
sometimes to find themselves in the artwork that they do, to clarify 
ideals for themselves and to challenge people. What is art about, if 
not that?
  So, in my office right now, we are putting together the artwork that 
has been submitted from the high schools in our district. We take very 
great pride in our artistic discovery contests, and so we are 
collecting that artwork.
  But as we looked at the instructions before we did it, we saw this 
new addition that just came up, first time. How long is this? Thirty-
two years we have been doing this? This is the first year that it 
includes suitability guidelines, and it makes very clear that subjects 
of contemporary political controversy are not allowed.
  Then we have to sign, each Member of Congress will be required to 
submit a letter of support for their work of art. This letter is to 
ensure that the Member has seen the artwork before it is submitted, has 
taken responsibility for the content, and has certified that the 
artwork, in the Member's opinion, adheres to the suitability 
  Now, of course it says: ``While it is not the intent to censor any 
artwork, we do wish to avoid artwork that is potentially inappropriate 
for display in this highly traveled area leading to the Capitol.''
  What the heck does that really mean? Does that mean that people are 
not--you know, we have to worry about is somebody going to take offense 
at something or say, ``Ooh, I don't like that picture''? They are 
entitled to do it, and the artist is entitled to put it out here.
  Now, it so happens that none of the pieces that were submitted, I 
think, were unsuitable, but who the heck knows anymore? Who makes the 
decision about what is unsuitable? I don't know.
  Some of the--if you look down the hall and look at some of them, some 
of those self-portraits, I don't know, these kids look troubled to me. 
Is that something that ought to be taken down? No. Absolutely no.
  This young person lived through a traumatic incident in his community 
and I think, quite artistically, decided to express his feelings about 
it. I think it is absolutely an outrage. We already heard about the 
violation of the Constitution, but each and every American should be 
offended by that and about these suitable guidelines. I am sorry. I 
object. I hope you do too.
  Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. 
Kaptur), my friend and dean of the Ohio delegation.
  Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congressman Clay for organizing this 
Special Order, and the people of Ohio in my district stand with him and 
with the young artist I will discuss in a moment.
  The United States of America and this Capitol stand as a symbol of 
American values and our freedoms. It just so

[[Page H2886]]

happens I represent a district that contains 2 of the 10 finest museums 
in America, at Cleveland and Toledo. We know a little bit about 
artistic expression.
  Here in the Capitol, we have created a place to gather and celebrate 
our Nation's highest ideals, and first and foremost among these is the 
right of every citizen to freely express themselves as equal citizens.
  A recent act of censorship here at the Capitol placed this American 
right under threat, and it is important that all Americans think about 
this and know about it. I speak to say this action cannot be tolerated. 
I stand with my distinguished colleagues and with the American people 
to speak out against the removal of David Pulphus' award-winning 
painting from the United States Capitol.
  There was a famous French artist named Edgar Degas, who said: ``Art 
is not what you see, but what you make others see.'' Surely, surely, 
David Pulphus' painting does this. And I support Mr. Pulphus' continued 
efforts to appeal a preliminary decision by the District of Columbia 
Federal Circuit Court that rejected his First Amendment legal claims, 
and that case will move forward.
  In May 2016, his extraordinary acrylic painting that reveals deep 
meaning, which he named Untitled #1, was awarded the prestigious honor 
to represent Missouri's First Congressional District in the 
Congressional Arts Competition.
  I have entered, for three decades, works from my district in this 
competition; and just like the other 434 pieces selected to represent a 
congressional district in the annual competition, Untitled #1 was 
approved and accepted by the Architect of the Capitol for public 
display inside our Capitol.
  For over 26 weeks, Untitled #1 hung in the underground tunnel between 
the Capitol and the Cannon House Office Building. For over 180 days 
there was no controversy. And for more than half a year, citizens and 
Members of Congress, congressional staff, thousands and thousands of 
international and national visitors passed by and viewed it with no 

  But that changed abruptly when, in fact, a Member from the Republican 
side of the aisle, I think, likely violated the law and pulled it off 
the wall in the Capitol of the United States. It didn't belong to him, 
but he did that. And, I dare say, that gentleman missed the deeper 
meaning of what this young man has portrayed.
  There was an added twist of irony in that the censorship moment 
occurred 1 day after our national holiday honoring civil rights icon 
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  The censorship sent a woeful and chilling message to our Nation and 
one that says that our young people's voices and their thoughts are not 
respected. I say that is un-American. Their views and experiences and 
perspectives must be valued.
  When we look at what was done, his freedom of expression, even when 
expressed through a juried competition, is not protected in the top 
site of liberty's essence, the legislative branch inside the United 
States Capitol Building.
  So Members of Congress have to take a stand. We must demand that the 
creative contributions of Americans, young and old, in the arts are 
embraced, including inside this Capitol. We cannot tolerate actions 
that directly and unjustly stifle or threaten an artist's artistic 
point of view. That is what America is all about.
  David Pulphus' painting won the honor to represent Missouri's First 
Congressional District because it reflects an important, compelling 
message. His work reminds us of the value of the arts in a free 
  The painting was inspired by the civil unrest that occurred in 
Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, and it depicts the racial confrontation 
that ensued with police after that fatal shooting of the unarmed teen, 
Michael Brown, Jr.
  This is a complex work and it does not deserve anyone's rejection. It 
tells us about ourselves and our society so that we face it fully. And 
if you look at it, there are serious messages in here that say, ``Stop 
Killing,'' ``Racism Kills.'' It talks about ``History.''
  And if you really look at it, you see that some of those involved in 
the killing, there is no right side. One of the perpetrators is 
portrayed as a wolf. It is very interesting to study the deeper 
meaning. This painting includes challenging images: a man being 
crucified, wearing a graduation cap, holding the scales of justice.
  This is a young man, he is not even 20 years old, thinking about 
  There is a horned beast in a police uniform tangling with a devil 
with a pointed tail--looks like a wolf--and demonstration signs that 
read ``History'' and ``Stop Killing.''
  Simply put, this commanding work of art from a teenager is a true 
testament to the power and immeasurable significance of our Nation's 
young artists who express us.
  The debate sparked by its removal from the Capitol is about something 
larger than the artwork itself. It is about defending our fundamental 
First Amendment freedom. This right to artistic expression is 
considered objectionable by a few and applauded by the vast majority of 
Americans who understand what free expression in this society is about.
  Neither the Architect of the Capitol nor a Member of Congress has the 
right to censor, self-censor citizens based on their political points 
of view, whether in the name of official decorum or because they find 
it offensive or because they fail to grasp its deep meaning.
  In America, if you do not like a painting you see in a display, you 
simply move on to the next one. You don't take it down. It doesn't 
belong to you.
  Nevertheless, as a painter myself and citizen who deeply reveres our 
constitutional rights, I am confident that in this case justice 
ultimately will prevail and Untitled #1 will soon resume its rightful 
place inside our Capitol because a young man with this depth of 
expression is proudly an American. If it doesn't come back, I fear for 
the slippery slope the Architect of the Capitol has begun, and it is 
not worthy of us as Americans.
  I want to thank Congressman Clay so very much for standing by this 
young American who is not even 18 years old yet, I don't think, and who 
managed to put this complex piece of art together. I am so proud of 
him; I am so proud of our country; and I just know that, working 
together, we are going to get it right for artistic expression here in 
the House of Representatives.
  Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Ohio. I certainly 
appreciate her support.
  In closing, let me say that the student artist in question, my 
constituent, David Pulphus, is a great young man. He is academically 
gifted, artistically talented, and is now a freshman in college. He is 
doing everything that we encourage young Americans to do to become 
successful citizens.
  His winning entry is a colorful, symbolic representation of the great 
anger, pain, frustration, and deep deficit in trust for local law 
enforcement that many young African Americans feel in their hearts. The 
painting also reflects generations of struggle, sacrifice, abuse of 
power, and tenuous relationships between minorities and a system of 
justice that still provides equal justice for some, but not for all.

                              {time}  1700

  So the larger, much more fundamental question is: Why does this young 
American feel that way, and what can we do as leaders of a 
compassionate and just nation to finally remedy that?
  I am so thankful for the remarkable public service of my exceptional 
pro bono legal team who are guiding this case, including Dr. Laurence 
Tribe of Harvard University School of Law, Dr. Erwin Chemerinsky of the 
University of California, Irvine School of Law, and others. As a Member 
of Congress who reveres the Constitution, I am confident that freedom 
and justice will prevail.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

[[Page H2887]]