Editorial: Statue drapery not needed

Perhaps Attorney General John Ashcroft was trying to lighten America’s mood, following so much worry about terrorism, when he ordered an $8,650 blue-velvet curtain to be draped over part of the Spirit of Justice. The partially nude female statue has stood before the Great Hall since the 1930s, but now is being shielded because Ashcroft is taking its bare breast too seriously. The government should be appalled at such a ridiculous waste of money, and the curtain should be removed entirely.

Art is always controversial. There has never been a doubt about that. But to even insinuate that the symbol of justice might be unacceptable, or even pornographic, is an exaggeration of how the statue looks. It is a statue holding a balance and is sheathed in a toga-like cloth that leaves one breast uncovered. It is an obvious dedication to classical Greek sculpture, as is much of Capitol Hill.

Granted, Ashcroft is a very religious man, but much of religious art reveals more than the Spirit of Justice does – a perfect example is the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Though Ashcroft is a Pentecostal Christian, Catholics are known for their aversion to pornography and distaste as much as the Pentecostals. But even the Catholics, and members of most religions, understand the beauty and aesthetics of art enough to know what crosses the line. The Spirit of Justice certainly has crossed no lines.

Instead, if Ashcroft is so worried about the statue, perhaps he should have chosen another backdrop. Otherwise, his ridiculous crusade should be self-funded and not by American taxpayers’ money, who were never given a chance to voice their opinions about the statue.

As American history has so often shown, had there been a great outcry against the statue, she would have been covered long ago. But she wasn’t, thus leaving the public to assume she was acceptable art, even only half-dressed.