When I spoke to Lewis Greenberg in August, the Ballwin resident had announced his determination to preserve The Holocaust Revisited, the collection of metal and wooden sculptures that sprawls across his front and back yards. Greenberg says his work is art and his lawyers maintain that it’s protected by the First Amendment. Greenberg’s neighbors claim it’s junk, and officials of the city of Ballwin have ruled it’s a health hazard and want it removed. Next Tuesday evening the case will go to trial in Ballwin’s municipal court.
Greenberg’s lawyer David Howard and Howard’s partner Veronica Johnson don’t anticipate a favorable outcome in the Ballwin court, and they’ve already filed a preliminary injunction in federal court to protect Holocaust while they file an appeal.
“Ultimately we will prevail,” adds Johnson. “It’s not a unique legal issue. The Supreme Court has ruled that artwork is constitutionally protected. The state or city would have to prove there is a ‘compelling state interest’ for removing the art, and we don’t think Ballwin can prove that interest.”
Meanwhile, says Howard, Greenberg’s largest problem will be covering his legal fees. In addition to the trial over The Holocaust Revisited, Greenberg faces charges of stalking and harassing his next-door neighbor Tim Purviance. (Greenberg and Purviance have accused each other of harassment since 2004.) Greenberg has appealed for financial assistance to the American Civil Liberities Union and the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League.
“They hate him,” Howard says of Greenberg’s neighbors. “He’s the wrong religion for Ballwin, apparently. That’s what it smacks of: anti-Semitism. I don’t know what else to call it.”