The Justices ruled today that by instructing the NEA to consider decency as well as artistic merit in making grants, Congress had not infringed on the First Amendment rights of artists. In other words, while the government can't interfere with complainant Karen Finley's right to smear chocolate over her naked body in the name of art, it's not obliged to pay for her Hershey bars either.
Today's Supreme Court ruling upholding Congress's "decency" requirement in NEA arts funding will come as a relief to the arts organization. "This allows the NEA to move beyond a controversy over a handful of artists which threatened to destroy the institution," says TIME correspondent Daniel Levy. "Most NEA money is spent funding uncontroversial local art projects, and people trying to eliminate the NEA will find it more difficult to whip up emotions over that."