The advisory council to the National Endowment for the Arts broke with its chairman today, voting overwhelmingly to drop an anti-obscenity pledge for artists that it likened to McCarthy-era loyalty oaths.
The council vote is not binding on the endowment. NEA Chairman John E. Frohnmayer said, "I'm going to consider it and take my action in due course."
The 19 members of the National Council on the Arts voted after one member said that requiring artists who get grants to pledge that their works will not be obscene amounts to "a loyalty oath reminiscent of the McCarthy era."
Only two dissenting votes were recorded.
Frohnmayer, responding to a controversy over federal grants that go toward controversial art, had inserted congressional language barring obscenity into the conditions that grant recipients must promise to obey before they can receive federal funds.
Congress imposed the obscenity ban on the endowment last October after conservative lawmakers led by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) complained that an exhibition of sexually explicit works by the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe contained obscenity and should not be financed by taxpayers' money.
The ban prohibits use of NEA grant money for works that the endowment chairman deems obscene.