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.