Wildmon Renews NEA Attack

The Falwell-Helms campaign comes as another conservative religious leader, longtime NEA opponent the Rev. Donald Wildmon, has stepped up his own Capitol Hill letter-writing campaign.

Wildmon’s American Family Assn. is raising some new--and, most recently, very old--objections to NEA grant-making decisions. In his latest anti-NEA mailing, dated April 17, Wildmon renewed an attack begun last year by himself, Helms and other conservative NEA opponents, on endowment support for the San Francisco-based Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

The Wildmon letter--the minister’s third major public complaint about the NEA in the last two months--prompted an unusual acknowledgment and response by NEA chairman John E. Frohnmayer.

The letters appear to establish more strongly than ever that the on-going NEA crisis is in large part a fight over federal government support of homosexual and lesbian art and artists.

“Mr. Wildmon’s complaint, stripped of rhetoric, seems to be that he doesn’t believe federal funds should go to homosexuals,” said the NEA chairman in a letter mailed April 25 to a handful of influential congressmen on arts issues. (A copy of the letter was obtained by The Times.)


Frohnmayer notes that, while Wildmon has long complained about NEA’s support of the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which received $12,000 in endowment funds last year, the General Accounting Office, which investigated the grant in 1990 on orders from Helms, found the transaction was entirely proper. An internal NEA inquiry found the festival innocent of charges that it showed pornographic films.

“The endowment does not blacklist nor does it give or refuse grants on the basis of sexual orientation,” the Frohnmayer letter said.