The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act (NFAHA) requires the Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to ensure that “artistic excellence and artistic merit are the criteria by which grant applications are judged, taking into consideration general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public.” Finley and three others (plaintiffs) were performance artists who applied for NEA grants. A NEA advisory panel recommended approval of Finley’s projects. The NEA Council then considered the projects, and a majority of the Council recommended disapproval. Finley was informed that she had been denied funding, and brought suit against the NEA (defendant) in district court. Finley alleged that the NEA’s grant-awarding policy violated their First Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment for Finley, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.