December 1, 2005

Another Attempt to Ban Wallflower

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
November 25, 2005 @ 6:21 pm
Filed under: Book Bans, Schools

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne only needed to read one page of The Perks of Being a Wallflower to decide that Stephen Chbosky’s book should be banned.

After reading the offending page, Horne sent a letter to the state’s district superintendents and principals asking them to reconsider having the books in their respective school libraries.


Geography Club Banned in Washington State

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
November 22, 2005 @ 8:08 am
Filed under: Book Bans, Libraries

Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club has been banned from the University Place, WA, school district libraries. Superintendent Patti Banks was disturbed that the book contained a scene in which a student meets a stranger he met in chat room. Hartinger notes that the book is usually challenged for its sexual content; Banks does not say if she was offended by the novel’s gay theme.

Michael Schaub has more at Blog of a Bookslut.


Libraries, Free Speech Advocates Read from Banned Books

Posted by Amanda Toering
October 3, 2005 @ 11:59 am
Filed under: Book Bans

Libraries and free speech advocates around the country celebrated the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week with readings from books you’re not supposed to see.

The issue of book banning is deeper than the hypothetical effect Huck Finn of Judy Blume might have on your morality. Cheers to those who took the opportunity to reflect on why banning “dangerous” books is so incredibly dangerous.

Here’s a roundup of local events.

Auburn, NY, from the Auburn Citizen:

When she was a child, Barrie H. Gewanter used to play soldier using an old hockey stick for a gun. As she grew up, she learned about real soldiers and war through reading - and given the current global situation - she has decided that reading about war is one of the best ways for children to learn about it.

That is why she read excerpts from the Vietnam War novel “Fallen Angels” by Walter Myers Friday evening during “Dirty Books and Dangerous Ideas,” a banned-book reading hosted by the central New York chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Loose Ends Little Theatre Company.


“Democracy depends on the ability of the people to have access to a free and flowing source of ideas,” said Gewanter, executive director of the regional civil liberties chapter. “Free speech is crucial. The purpose is to alert people that our First Amendment right to read or write or express ourselves has throughout the years been compromised or censored,” said Bourke Kennedy, artistic director of the Loose Ends Little Theatre Company, who read from “Revolting Rhymes” by Roald Dahl. “We just don’t feel that’s right.”

Bennington, VT, from the Bennington Banner:

Left unread in boxes at the shipping docks or kept behind the front desk at the public library, banned books have often been more important than their inoffensive counterparts.

Our literary heritage would be almost unrecognizable without, for example, James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer,” both of which were once prohibited in the United States.


The are various reasons why people object to books, said Lynne Fonteneau, a reference librarian at the Bennington Free Library, but most are political or social.

“It’s important to direct people’s attention to attempts to censor literature,” Fonteneau said. “With this exhibit, people have an opportunity to look at the books and draw their own conclusions.”

The library has seen considerable interest in an exhibit that showcases banned books, Fonteneau said. Many people, she added, decided to check out books from the banned shelf.

“We’d like to think that we have a free and open right to choose what we want to read,” she said. “It’s one of our constitutional rights.”

Although she hasn’t heard requests from patrons to remove any books, Fonteneau said, the library wants to emphasize the importance of offering all types of written material.

Orem, UT, from the newspaper of Utah Valley State College:

The UVSC library celebrated Banned Books Week by offering displays of books that have been banned throughout history, including “Little Red Riding Hood,” The Bible, and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

The display had patrons of the library asking questions about some of the more surprising books to have been historically banned.

“If we look at some of the books that have been banned, it’s really surprising,” said Esther Nichols, Library Aide. “I know that for patrons, as well as Library Aides like myself, [Banned Books Week] has made us talk a lot more about censorship.”


“I think the banning of the books started when people didn’t want the rest of the population to think for themselves,” Nichols said. “It is important to make people aware of what could happen if we censor people too much.”

Pittsburgh, PA, from the Carnegie Mellon Tartan online:

CMU kids like to take risks. According to the facebook, 287 CMU students list The Catcher in the Rye as one of their favorite books. More than 500 like Catch-22; the same goes for 1984.

Coincidentally, all of these books distracting students from their programming homework were at some point in their literary careers banned. Yes, banned. Deemed offensive, inappropriate, unsuitable, and likely to corrupt minors.

Maybe CMU kids do know how to get wild on a Saturday night.

Last Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh recently had a night to “celebrate our right to read.” But this wasn’t any ordinary book chat. This one was replete with sex, racism, fetishes, and talking animals. At the 10th Annual Banned Books Reading, the ACLU and Carnegie Library gathered local celebrities and free-thinking citizens alike to “oppose the censorship” placed on perennial favorites like The Great Gatsby, A Clockwork Orange, and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Who knew Shel Silverstein had it so rough?


Current political events underscored the evening of classic literature. Tim Stevens, prior to reading a chapter from Richard Wright’s Native Son, reminded the audience of racism’s pulse still beating in the United States. Hurricane Katrina and its failed relief effort have shown us “how far we have come in not coming forward,” Stevens said to applause. Also earning support from the audience was all bashing of President Bush’s PATRIOT Act, an act that can force librarians to turn over private client information to the government. Now really, what were you doing with that encyclopedia on pre-imperialist China? Planning to mimic their tactics, no doubt!

Belleville, IL, from the Belleville News-Democrat:

At the Southwestern Illinois College Banned Books Week Read-In on Friday, some of the usual suspects appeared: “Catcher in the Rye,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and every Harry Potter book.

But there were a few surprises, to me at least, like “Oliver Twist,” by Charles Dickens, “The Call of the Wild,” by Jack London, and “Walter the Farting Dog,” by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray.

But that’s mainly because I had never read Walter. I can see why some people might object to it.

Walter, who has serious gas issues, is beloved by his children but irritates his adult owners before he saves the day with his disability.

This sort of thing is hilarious to children, and I must admit, to some adults as well with juvenile minds.

Someone in Wisconsin challenged the book at a school library (on the basis of pure bad taste, I’m thinking) because the word “fart” or “farting” is used 24 times in the short book.

“I find it fascinating that someone counted,” said Jennifer Bone, assistant professor and librarian at SWIC, who admits she reads the book frequently with her child. “If it bothers you that much, just don’t read it.”

Ahh, but that wouldn’t control others and promote one’s own beliefs, which is the basis of book banning. Ideas are dangerous things and not to be spread lightly, especially ideas about what is and isn’t normal.


There were displays of books, cordoned off by yellow caution tape, that represented some challenged books, but “Little Red Riding Hood?”

It was challenged because an illustration on the cover of one edition showed Riding Hood with a basket for Grandma that contained a bottle of wine, which could encourage alcoholism, Lopinot said.


There is even a book for banned books from the American Library Association called “Banned Books.”

It is freely available and in many libraries.


Timeline of Book Banning

Posted by Amanda Toering
September 29, 2005 @ 1:01 pm
Filed under: Book Bans

In honor of Banned Books Week, the Book Standard provides us with a handy history of book banning in the U S of A.

Thomas Paine — who was tried for treason as a result of his writings — starts us off. Jon Stewart — whose hilarious America: The Book has never seen the inside of a WalMart — rounds out the list.

Read about it at The Book Standard.


2004: Year of the Book Ban

Posted by Amanda Toering
September 2, 2005 @ 10:37 am
Filed under: Book Bans

From the LA Times:

Attempts to have library books removed from shelves increased by more than 20% in 2004 over the previous year, according to a new survey by the American Library Assn.

Three books with gay themes, including Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” were among the works most criticized.

“It all stems from a fearfulness of well-meaning people,” says Michael Gorman, president of the library association. “We believe in parental responsibility, and that you should take care of what your children are reading. But it’s not your responsibility to tell a whole class of kids what they should read.”

The number of books challenged last year jumped to 547, compared to 458 in 2003, with the library group estimating four to five unreported cases for each one documented. According to the ALA, a challenge is “a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.”

The ALA study was to be released today in anticipation of the 25th annual Banned Books Week, which runs Sept. 24 to Oct. 1 and is co-sponsored by the ALA, the American Booksellers Assn. and others. Gorman acknowledged that few books are actually banned, adding that Banned Books Week is a “catchy name.”

Read the rest.


Deja Vu in Reverse?

Posted by Amanda Toering
July 25, 2005 @ 1:18 pm
Filed under: Book Bans

The Dallas Public Library has unveiled a historical exhibit that, perhaps unintentionally, has eerie parallels to today’s indecency debate.

Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings,” focuses on the efforts of Nazi Germany to eliminate materials considered “un-German.” It also deals with the homefront’s efforts during WWII to eliminate materials considered to be “pro-Nazi.”

From the Dallas Morning News:

Though primarily concerned with the Nazi book burnings, the exhibit also sheds light on censorship in today’s American society, including the burning of books such as Harry Potter by members of a Michigan church in 2003.

“It’s kind of ridiculous,” said Dallas resident David Rosen, 41, about the Potter book burnings. “If you don’t want your kids to read it, don’t check it out for them.”
Also Online

En español: Biblioteca recuerda quema nazi de libros

As the exhibit illustrates, however, such choices were nonexistent for citizens in Germany from 1933 until the Nazis’ fall at the end of World War II.

After a group of German university students and librarians formed the first “blacklists” of banned books in 1933, the works of authors ranging from Ernest Hemmingway and Helen Keller to Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were committed to the flames.

“The German press became a Nazi press … Nazi papers … Nazi pamphlets. These were all people could read,” says the narrative of one video in the historical display. “One voice from the cradle to the grave; Hitler, Hitler, Hitler.”

The Morning News article takes an interesting side trip. The library’s multiculti expert, Miriam Rodriguez, was raised in Cuba. “There were many books censored in Cuba, and well, you didn’t talk about those books,” she said. “But even though we are in America, and this is a free country, we are not off the hook of censorship.”

Read more. And if you’re in the neiborhood, pop in for a visit.


A Brief History of Book Bans

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 28, 2005 @ 10:18 am
Filed under: Book Bans

Ian Fraser provides his readers with hyperlinked a “crash course” in censorship, detailing book bans and obscenity trials all the way from the Marquis de Sade to the Turner Diaries.

From South Africa’s Mail and Guardian.


“Chocolate War” Challenged in Ann Arbor

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 11:28 am
Filed under: Book Bans

The most challenged book of 2004, says the American Library Association, was Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War. Jumping on the bandwagon, one Ann Arbor mother is fighting to get the book banned in her kids’ district.

Chris Anderson, a mother of five children in the Milan district, said the book is inappropriate for the classroom and contradicts the district’s teaching in terms of character building.

“It has vile language and bad sexual conduct and masturbation,'’ Anderson said. “Wet dreams and masturbation were mentioned something like six times. The entire book has a very negative message. The main character stands up to the school bullies and gets beat to a pulp for it.'’


School board secretary David Johnson said Anderson’s request to remove the book from that list has sparked concerns about its contents. “(Cormier) may be a very well-known author but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a good critical look at (the book),'’ Johnson said.

The board is likely discuss Anderson’s request, and the committee’s recommendations, in August.

And on a side note, just for the record, I am the cheese.

From Michigan Live.


Reading from Censored Works to be Held Tonight

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 7, 2005 @ 10:56 am
Filed under: Book Bans

The PEN Center, a writers’ rights group, will be holding a reading from censored works tonight in LA.

Readers include James Cromwell, Jason Alexander, Brian Cox, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Guest, Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, her husband Adrian Pasdar, and Alfre Woodard.

Drop by — if you’ve got $300 to spare.

Or head to your local library and check out the represented works, including those by Maya Angelou, J.D. Salinger, Judy Blume, J.K. Rowling, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain — and hold your own reading, for free.


Oklahoma Reps Vow to Revisit Gay Book Issue

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 26, 2005 @ 10:03 am
Filed under: Book Bans

The Oklahoma Legislature passed a library finance bill yesterday that does not address the issue of gay-themed kids’ books. Representative Sally Kern penned a resolution earlier this month — which passed — that threatens libraries with defunding if they don’t keep children’s books with gay themes out of children’s reach.

The Legislature vowed to seriously study library book ‘placement’ during its next session.

From the Advocate.


FBI Asked WA Library for List of Osama Readers

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 23, 2005 @ 7:16 pm
Filed under: Book Bans

In a first-hand account published in USA Today, Washington librarian Joan Arioldi recounts the FBI’s request to obtain a list of all library patrons who had checked out a biography of Osama bin Laden. The FBI claims it was interested in the list after a library reader reported notes scribbled in the margin of the book.

We told the FBI that it would have to follow legal channels before our board of trustees would address releasing the names of the borrowers. We also informed the FBI that, through a Google search, our attorney had discovered that the words in the margin were almost identical to a statement by bin Laden in a 1998 interview.

Undeterred, the FBI served a subpoena on the library a week later demanding a list of everyone who had borrowed the book since November 2001.

Our trustees faced a difficult decision. It is our job to protect the right of people to obtain the books and other materials they need to form and express ideas. If the government can easily obtain records of the books that our patrons are borrowing, they will not feel free to request the books they want. Who would check out a biography of bin Laden knowing that this might attract the attention of the FBI?

Arioldi tells how library trustees fought to quash the order — and how, if the FBI’s attempts to follow through on that provision of the Patriot Act had been successful, she would have been forbidden to tell the story.

In USA Today.


♫ Oooooh-klahoma, Where the Rep’s Main Argument Is Lame! ♫

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 20, 2005 @ 11:36 am
Filed under: Book Bans

The OK City library board met last night to discuss whether the controversial “King and King” should be moved from its libraries’ children’s sections. The state legislature recently passed a resolution that would defund public libraries if they don’t hide “gay-themed” children’s books from the books’ intended audience.

Hundreds of community members attended the meeting. They were each given 30 seconds to speedily recite their objections to or support for the book-hiding.

Also speaking at the meeting was the resolution’s sponsor, Representative Sally Kern. Kern offered what is perhaps the most fallacious non sequitur ever uttered by a pro-censorship, freshman Republican minister’s wife.

Kern argued that moving the gayest of books is the people’s will.


Wait for it….

Because “seventy-one percent of the voters of Oklahoma County voted to uphold traditional marriage.”

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, so there.

The library board postponed its decision until next week.

From ChannelOklahoma.


Walter Jones, Sponsor of Library Book Bill, Says ‘Forget Tolerance!’

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 18, 2005 @ 10:49 am
Filed under: Book Bans

Walter Jones, sponsor of a House bill that would require parental review boards to approve library book purchases, believes that teaching tolerance to kids is unimportant.


“Children don’t even know what tolerance means,” he said. “Parents who bring children into the world should not feel there’s a social agenda in their schools.”

From the Kinston (NC) Free Press.


US House Jumps on Gay Book Ban-Wagon

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 17, 2005 @ 12:40 pm
Filed under: Book Bans

Yet another Southern legislator has proposed to protect kids from kids’ books.

US Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) has introduced a bill (HR 2295) that would require state educational agencies to implement a parental review board to decide which books are suitable for public libraries. States that refused to implement such review boards would lose federal education funding.

Jones heard the call after reading a newspaper story about a 7-year-old girl who checked out “King and King” from her local library. The girl’s parents were appalled and apparently believe she’s been scarred for life. (”King and King” is the current anti-gay cause célèbre, and was also the impetus for Oklahoma’s recent gay book kerfluffle.)

According to The Hill, Jones said he hopes that his bill will “help parents take back their right to regulate the appropriateness of the content their children are exposed to.”

Okay, so how does this work? The state’s education agency — whose commissioners are political appointees in most (all?) states — picks a handful of parents to make decisions for all parents in each district? Can anyone claim with a straight that these “review boards” won’t turn into political posts?

Wouldn’t it just be easier for parents to accompany their 7-year-olds to the library, and make decisions about which books are appropriate for which child?

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The committee’s chairman, John Boehner of Ohio, is reportedly in favor of its passage.

Story in The Hill.


♫ Oooooh-klahoma, Where the Press Says “Censorship? Okay!” ♫

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 15, 2005 @ 1:59 pm
Filed under: Book Bans

The Oklahoma legislature passed a resolution last week that amounts to extortion of public libraries: Block children’s access of gay-themed children’s books, or else. (The ‘else’ in this case — “or else we’ll bankrupt you.”)

“We’re not going to cut funding to the (overall) library system,” resolution sponsor Sally Kern said. But the House Subcommittee on Education will study ways to bypass [funding to] libraries if they will not comply, its vice chairwoman said.

Rep. Tad Jones, R-Claremore, who heads the education subcommittee, said Friday that members will explore ways that certain libraries could be stopped from sharing in state budget increases.

(From “Gay book issue may get tied to funds,” Tulsa World, May 14, 2005; content available online only to paid subscribers.)

In another report, Kern said, “If the libraries do not comply with what the Legislature feels is the prevailing community standard of our towns and cities and entire state, then yes, there is a possibility that they will not receive extra funding.”

The Tulsa library system has acquiesced, according to KOTV. (Note to KOTV: Spell check!)

So there you have it. The legislature is threatening to punish libraries that don’t follow political marching orders.

But where’s the outrage?

Of all of Oklahoma’s newspapers, only one has registered an editorial complaint against the legislature’s censorious strong-arming. The Claremore Progress — published in Will Rogers’ hometown — posted an editorial titled “Beware of Censorship.” But the Claremore editors are no Will Rogers — and they’re certainly no Tom Joad. Their warning against the ills of censorship is toothless and wet-noodlish.

Regular television and the Internet are overrun with homosexual themes and other presentations that, in fact, parents should supervise and have every right to ban. That’s family business. Not the legislature’s.

What is one person’s sin often is another’s passion. Where is the Legislature’s stop sign on deciding morals?

This newspaper certainly supports the free speech First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution that precludes censorship. The question about what is being censored is a wholly different issue.

The more mature, forward thinking Senate surely would block any such precipitous action. Senate Appropriations chair Johnnie Crutchfield, D-Ardmore, said he opposes “policy attachment to appropriations bills.” Instead he said “substantive bills” should deal with such issues.

Crutchfield is right. So is the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Crutchfield is right? Crutchfield’s statement implied that the hide-’em-or-else resolution should be codified by a “substantive bill.”

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the press? Where’s the careful examination of the consequences of shielding kids from kids’ books?

It ain’t in Oklahoma.

The Claremore Progress editorial has, to date, received one reader comment:

1st amendment a touchy subject? Could you please tell your readers when free speech became a taxpayer funded right? Would you support books that call for the burning and murder of editors? Under your version of free speech it would be ok. I support Tad and his ideas of morals. Why should any parent be able to ban a television show only to have their child go to school and be able to check out a book on any subject known to mankind? Morals is the foundation of a decent and good society. Our government should promote them, even if our local newspaper just can’t muster the guts to.

There’s the outrage.


‘Our Family Tree’ Chopped Down

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 12, 2005 @ 8:43 pm
Filed under: Book Bans

Officials at a Monticello, MN, elementary school have canceled an appearance by children’s book author Lisa Westberg Peters.

Peters popular book, “Our Family Tree,” was deemed too controversial by the school’s principal because it deals with evolution.

“It’s a cute book. There’s nothing wrong with it. We just don’t need that kind of debate,” said Brad Sanderson, principal at Pinewood Elementary.

The book’s author is crying censorship.

“Once you start censoring, it’s a slippery slope. Are geology and physics next? You have to stop it right away,” said Peters, who won a Minnesota Book Award for “Our Family Tree,” published in 2003.

More at the Star Tribune.


♫ Oooooh-klahoma, Where the Pols Ban Books They Think Are Gay ♫

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 11, 2005 @ 10:50 am
Filed under: Book Bans

Alabama’s gay book ban died only to be resurrected in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma House of Reps passed a resolution that would ban books about gay families from the children’s sections of public libraries. The resolution asks libraries to “confine homosexually themed books and other age-inappropriate material to areas exclusively for adult access and distribution.”

Resolutions are not laws, and are typically reserved for such hard-hitting action as naming the Month of May Arthritis Awareness Month, or “commending the Frontier High School Mustangs boys and girls basketball teams for winning the Class A Championship; congratulating them for being only the fifth high school to win both the boys and girls championship in the same year; and directing distribution [of the resolution to the public].”

Resolution sponsor Sally Kern pointed to one book in particular, which she calls “obscene.” “King and King” is the story of a young prince who, ordered to marry by summer’s end, sort of falls for another prince. One review calls the book “a joyful celebration that at the same time firmly challenges the assumptions established and perpetuated by the entire canon of children’s picture books.”

“This isn’t censorship,” Kern said, “because I’m not asking that they be thrown away, be burned. I’m asking that they just be put in with adult collections and then if a parent wants their child to see a book like that they can check it out.”

The resolution states that a child’s development “should be at the discretion of a child’s parents free from interference from the distribution of inappropriate publicly cataloged materials” and that public libraries should not expose children to material “that may be deemed harmful and inappropriate.”

“Where’s the stopping point on this?” asked Darrell Gilbert (D-Tulsa)

“If this is a book that you want to have in, quote, an adult-only access part of the library - which there aren’t any such things — you’re going to have to take every anatomy book and put it in there, too, because it has nude bodies in it, pictures of body parts. Where does it stop?”

Full story here.


What If You Held a Book Burning and No One Showed Up?

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 10, 2005 @ 12:23 pm
Filed under: Book Bans

Alabama’s propsed ban on gay books has died the slow, painful death it deserves. Representative Gerald Allen’s bill was scheduled for a vote recently, but too few legislators showed up for a vote to be held.

Allen says he’ll try again next session.

Coverage is scant, but there are editorials in Washington’s Tri-City Herald and Ohio University’s Post Online.


Conservative Groups Seek to Ban Sex-Ed Curriculum Addressing Gay Issues

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 3, 2005 @ 9:11 am
Filed under: Right Watch, Book Bans, Schools, Montgomery County

A storm is brewing in Montgomery County, Maryland, over health ed curriculum that would address gay issues.

The Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based legal aid group for religious causes, has filed suit on behalf of “Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum” and PFOX, or “Parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays.”

“The school board has been captured by radical homosexual advocacy groups whose only agenda is to promote their political goals without respect to the consequences,” said Mathew D. Staver, Liberty Counsel’s president and general counsel (reported at Bozell’s Cybercast News Service).

Liberty Counsel offers the following examples from the instruction booklet:

– “Fact: Most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice;”

– “Fact: Sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence and does not prove long-term sexual orientation;”

– “It is no more abnormal or sick to be homosexual than to be left-handed;”

– “Heterosexual parents are consistently not found to be more loving or caring than gay parents;”

– “Jesus said absolutely nothing at all about homosexuality;”

– “Religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression;”

– “One’s sexual and emotional orientations are fixed at an early age — certainly by age five;”

– “Human sexuality is a continuum;”

– “Many homophobic responses are born out of a fear that one’s own sexual orientation may not be entirely heterosexual;”

– “[A]bstinence until marriage” is detrimental to “GLBT youth;”

– “It is perfectly natural to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender.”

Bozell’s report neglects to note, however, that the county’s health curriculum coordinator has already removed some references from the curriculum that evangelicals found offensive. Russell Henke scrubbed the reference to same-sex sex play (bullet #2, above), and he also removed a notice in a curriculum guide that said students would be “discussing sexual identity” during the course of the class.

According to the Washington Blade, “Henke said the changes, which were voted on in November and recently announced during parent meetings, are ‘minor’ and not anti-gay.”

An interesting side note: Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, one of the plaintiffs seeking an injunction against the curriculum, first made a splash by protesting a video shown in Montgomery County. A woman in the video uses a cucumber to teach kids how to properly use a condom.

Though they may find the imagery scandalous, they prominently feature it on the front page of their website.


Southern Poverty Law Center on Proposed ‘Bama Book Ban

Posted by Amanda Toering
April 29, 2005 @ 9:36 am
Filed under: Book Bans

The folks at the Southern Povery Law Center — which isn’t just for poor Southerners anymore — have dissected a bill introduced into Alabama’s legislature that would ban “gay” books.

Practical matters aside, State Rep. Gerald Allen is certainly aware that his proposed statute violates a core tenet of the First Amendment — it’s commonplace knowledge that the government is prohibited from stifling speech because of its message, idea or subject matter. [See R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 u.s. 377, 386 (1992)]

And Allen’s bill represents the most egregious form of content-based regulation because it is viewpoint-discriminatory. [See Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 u.s. 819, 829 (1995) (explaining that “[v]iewpoint discrimination is … an egregious form of content discrimination”).]

The bill would prohibit only those materials that promote homosexuality, leaving books that cast homosexuality in a negative light unscathed and on Alabama bookshelves.

From the Southern Povery Law Center.

‘Bama Still Thinking on Gay Book Ban

Posted by Amanda Toering
April 27, 2005 @ 10:04 am
Filed under: Book Bans

An Alabama legislator is still trying to pass a bill that would ban “gay” books — in this case, any book written by a gay author or that features gay characters.

[Representative Gerald] Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can’t define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama’s public and college libraries.


In book after book, Allen reads what he calls the “homosexual agenda,” and he’s alarmed.

“It’s not healthy for America, it doesn’t fit what we stand for,” says Allen. “And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal.”

He says he sees this as a line in the sand.

At CBS News.


Bay Windows Update

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
April 27, 2005 @ 9:43 am
Filed under: Book Bans

Dan Kennedy is reporting at his weblog that Bay Windows will be back in Stop & Shop and Shaw’s as early as this week. The two stores had stopped carrying the gay and lesbian newspaper because of its explicit personal ads.

Bay Windows is apparently dropping them.


Two Books Retained in Indiana Elementary School

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
April 22, 2005 @ 6:08 am
Filed under: Book Bans notes that the Peru (IN) School Board voted 4-3 to retain the books Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice in a third/fourth grade reading class at Blair Pointe Elementary. Teacher Anne Kreutzer defended the book’s use of strong language:

“There’s no excuse for bad manners, bad words or bad deeds,” Kreutzer said. “The books’ questionable material stands in sharp contrast to the good lessons and good characters who make good decisions when confronted with improper manner, words and actions by others.”


Nab Bat Boy In Cali Controversy!

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
April 22, 2005 @ 6:00 am
Filed under: Book Bans

Parents of students in a La Cañada (CA) High School drama class are upset teacher Gale Caswell chose Bat Boy as the class’ next production. Karen Mathison said, “As parents, we are doing our best to raise our children not to be accepting of this type of incest, bestiality, animals copulating on stage, murder, murder, murder.”

Caswell agreed to remove the bestiality from the play after receiving the complaints. Mathison said the play couldn’t be toned down to the point of acceptability, so she’d like it to be cancelled outright.

Over 200 people showed up to a school board meeting to either support or condemn the musical, even though the board wasn’t planning on discussing it. Both stories were noted at BroadwayStars.


Committee Recommends Banning The Giver

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
April 21, 2005 @ 10:06 am
Filed under: Book Bans

A school district committee in Cedar Rapids, IA has recommended banning Lois Lowry’s The Giver from elementary schools after the parents of a 10-year-old student challenged the novel for its subject matter.

Shaun Holcomb, who with his wife Lorrie had brought forth the challenge, said they were trying to protect their son from the book’s content. “We weren’t trying to ban it from the whole school district or anything like that.”

Lorrie Holcomb added, “I think it’s going to show him that you should stand up for what you believe in. It’s going to show him his parents care about him.”

Teachers and students made an effort to keep the book in classrooms. Superintendent Dave Markward will decide whether or not to accept the committee’s decision. Thanks to for the link to this story.


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