CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CN) – The American Humanist Association claims in court that a Virginia jail warden wrongly denied prisoners copies of its magazine because its latest issue contains images of Peter Paul Rubens’ 16th century painting, “Adam and Eve.”
In a federal complaint filed Thursday in Charlottesville, the association, which promotes ethical behavior without reliance on theism, claims warden Ivan Gilmore of the Coffeewood Correctional Center in Mitchells, Virginia, cited arbitrary “operating procedures” as a way to block prisoners’ access to The Humanist.
The complaint says that after rejecting the July-August issue containing a photograph of the Flemish painter’s work, Gilmore informed the plaintiff that Virginia Department of Corrections rules prohibit material containing nudity.
The procedural code at Coffewood defines nudity as “the showing (human or cartoon) of the male or female genitals, pubic area, female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of the areola, or male or female buttocks with less than a full opaque covering of the anus.”
But that prohibition, the association claims, cannot be applied to content or “publications containing nudity illustrative of medical, educational or anthropological content” per the jail’s own rules.
Despite this, Gilmore has allegedly rejected numerous publications on the grounds that they violate nudity rules at the jail — including educational art magazines.
The association points out the Virginia state seal depicts a “female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of the areola.”
The association argues that Gilmore’s decision to reject the magazine is a violation of the First Amendment.
It goes on to say Gilmore’s actions also violate the 14th Amendment because the association was not given an opportunity to contest his decision.
The association is represented by Jeffrey Fogel of Charlottesville.
The Virginia Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment.