NEW YORK, NY, March 8, 2007 — The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) today welcomed decisions by federal, state and local prosecutors upholding the right of students in Howell, Michigan, to read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Richard Wright’s Black Boy, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, and Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors. U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy III and Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced yesterday that there is no merit in the complaints made by the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (“LOVE”) that the books are obscene. Murphy, who had referred the books to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a decision, declared that neither “[t]he material submitted nor its inclusion as part of the school’s required English curriculum constitutes a violation of federal law.” Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse cleared the book last week.
“We are pleased to see that the U.S. Attorney, Attorney General, and County Prosecutor have made the right decision in this case and deferred to the school officials, who had undertaken an appropriate and thoughtful review of the educational value of these books,” NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin said. She added, however, that “the case demonstrates the need to educate more parents about how the First Amendment applies in public schools.” ABFFE President Chris Finan added that U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy III had taken the case too far on March 1st when he sent Fyke’s letter to the FBI for investigation. "It is disturbing that it has taken the U.S. Attorney so long to conclude that he has no jurisdiction in this case,” he said. “It should never have been referred to the FBI in the first place."
While expressing satisfaction in the outcome of the Michigan case, Bertin and Finan noted that there has been a rash of censorship incidents in recent weeks involving books used in public schools. Parents have challenged Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk in Missouri Valley, Iowa and Carolyn Mackler’s Vegan Virgin Valentine, Eddie de Oliveira’s Lucky, Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes, Robert Cormier’s Beyond the Chocolate War, and Kevin Henkes’ Newbery Honor-winning Olive’s Ocean in Duval County, FL. In addition, school librarians have hesitated to purchase this year’s Newbery award-winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, for their school collections because the word, “scrotum,” appears on the book’s opening page.
Founded in 1974, NCAC is an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations, including literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups. ABFFE is the bookseller’s voice in the fight against censorship. It was founded in 1990 by the American Booksellers Association.