To the Editor:
If Rachel Donadio ("Is There Censorship?" Book Review, 12/19/04) is correct that the "c-word" is occasionally overused, the main example this holiday season is the absurd claim that using generic phrases like "happy holidays" and "season's greetings" constitutes censorship of "Christmas" and "Christians."
More importantly, however, Donadio's overly restrictive view of censorship misses the big picture. The reader is left unaware of the assault on teaching evolution, restrictive "abstinence-only-until- marriage" curricula, restraints on government scientists' ability to speak publicly on environmental and public health issues, efforts to impose Congressional oversight on foreign studies programs, etc. Not to mention reporters threatened with jail for refusing to disclose the identity of confidential sources- something arguably critical to a free press.
Donadio does not see censorship in a library "choosing not to lend" Judy Blume books, but she fails to make the distinction between a library's legitimate book selection process and the illegitimate exclusion of books because of objections to their message. One is the exercise of professional judgment, the other seeks to impose an "official orthodoxy."
With regard to the Treasury Department regulations requiring government pre-approval for certain types of publications, which Donadio discusses at length, she fails to note that this is a pre-publication government licensing scheme – the fundamental evil targeted by the First Amendment.
The Constitution is in bad shape if the press and public don't understand why prior restraint is a problem. All things considered, alarm seems an entirely appropriate reaction.
Joan E. Bertin
National Coalition Against Censorship