As a criminal defense attorney, and a mother, I am used to not being liked occasionally, and as necessary.
Support for free speech is not a dogma never to be questioned. When white supremacists violently march in Charlottesville under the banner of “free speech” while NFL players are penalized for protesting the murder of unarmed black people, can one still insist that those of us standing up against racism and working towards a more equitable society should engage politely with racist ideologues?
This article originally appeared in Censorship News Issue 128 The fall of socialism came unexpectedly for all of us who grew up in what appeared as a regime built to last forever, its permanence embodied in the weight of Stalinist architecture and the monumental roughly-hewn statues of communist leaders. The removal of those statues and of the giant red star shining [...]
David Levithan, an award-winning author and editor of dozens of books, will be honored along with former NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin, at the NCAC Celebration of Free Speech and Its Defenders on Nov. 6 in New York.
This article originally appeared in Censorship News Issue 126 Using spurious First Amendment arguments, state legislators around the country are attacking science education, particularly the teaching of evolution and climate change. Supporters of SB 55 in South Dakota claimed the bill was necessary to protect the academic freedom and free speech rights of teachers. NCAC explained that while teachers have [...]
This article originally apeared in Censorship News Issue 126 It was the “winter of our discontent,” to judge by the number and intensity of protests around the country. Most of these protests, like the Women’s March and the March for Life, displayed the strengths of our constitutional system. But not all. Some protesters and public officials apparently don’t know or [...]
This article originally appeared in Censorship News 126 Islamophobia and censorship In Tennessee, the leader of a Facebook group, Sullivan County Parents Against Islam Indoctrination, filed an official complaint seeking the removal of a Pearson textbook, My World History. She claims it promotes Islamic indoctrination and violates her daughter’s religious beliefs. NCAC explained the difference between religious education and indoctrination [...]
This article originally appeared in Censorship News Issue 126 “Disparaging” trademarks The controversy behind Lee v. Tam began in 2011 when musician Simon Tam, an Asian-American, attempted to trademark his band’s name, The Slants. The Patent and Trademark Office rejected the trademark based on a provision of the 1946 Lanham Act that prohibits trademarks that “may disparage” people, institutions, beliefs, [...]
This story originally appeared in Censorship News 126 As a candidate for president, Donald Trump made headlines for his scathing attacks on the press. They were not limited to labeling the media as dishonest, referring to unfavorable coverage as “fake news,” and threatening to change libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations. Mr. Trump’s media hostility went [...]
This Interview originally appeared in Censorship News Issue 125 Author Rainbow Rowell has won enormous praise for stories like Eleanor & Park, which perfectly captures the growing pangs, hormonal joys and general awkwardness of the teenage experience. Her raw portrayals of teenage life have, however, frequently made her books subject to censorship attempts. We spoke to Rowell about these challenges [...]
This article originally appeared in Censorship News Issue 125 Transit ads again A decision from the federal appeals court in Chicago revisits the contentious issue of ads on public transportation. The case involves a policy in Fort Wayne, IN, against advertisements that “express or advocate opinions or positions upon political, religious or moral issues.”The ad in question promotes a “free resource [...]
This article orignally appeared in Censorship News Issue 125 History textbooks are re-written every few years – not because the past changes, but because our understanding of it does. Even as we reconsider our understanding of the past, artifacts survive that remind us how our predecessors saw the world. Historical paintings are a case in point. Many such works are [...]
This article originally appeared in Censorship News Issue 125 Virginia state senator Amanda Chase recently claimed that three popular and highly-regarded books for teens are “pornographic.” The books were included on a high school summer reading list, but they were not required – students were free to choose other books. Nonetheless, Senator Chase demanded that they be removed from the [...]
Published in January, The Guantanamo Diary is an intense account of Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s excruciating experiences as a prisoner of the U.S. war on terror. Slahi was detained in his native Mauritania in 2001; a CIA rendition plane flew him to Jordan for brutal interrogation sessions, and from there he was taken to Afghanistan and then finally to the infamous [...]
According to black students, the problems they face on campus — like poor retention and graduation rates and less financial aid — existed before the video surfaced. Perhaps there’s a problem at OU that goes beyond the reprehensible acts of some students on a party bus.
PULP noun: A soft, wet, shapeless mass of material PULPED verb: To crush into a soft, shapeless mass A week into the international controversy over the removal and planned destruction—PULPING—of three children’s picture books by the National Library of Singapore, I read the headline Singapore halts pulping of ‘pro-gay’ books. The article reported that two of the books, AND TANGO MAKES THREE and THE WHITE SWAN [...]
NCAC screened our 2013 Youth Free Expression Film Contest Winners at the New York Film Academy on March 29. Top prize went to Ani Akpan of the Bronx for his visually dazzling Future Warfare III, followed by Peter Ackerman of Augusta, Maine and Austin Guerrero of Gresham, Oregon; Daniella Sanchez won the People’s Choice Award with the greatest number of [...]
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.” — Aldous Huxley Huxley would not be surprised then, that as we go to print, his 1932 novel, Brave New World, has been challenged in Delaware by a school board member who declared, “because my [...]
1975: “Burning Books in North Dakota” Bruce Severy was fired after having assigned James Dickey’s Deliverance and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five to his high school English students. When the school’s burning of the books created nationwide publicity, residents of Drake, N.D. were “dumbfounded and vaguely upset by the notoriety.” 1979: “Classified at Birth: The Progressive Case” The controversy around the Progressive’s intended article on the [...]
Read contributions from: American Association of University Professors American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression American Civil Liberties Union American Library Association American Society of Journalists & Authors Association of American Publishers Catholics for Choice College Art Association Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Dramatists Guild of America Lambda Legal Modern Language Association National Center for Science Education National Council of Teachers [...]
Did 30 students at a suburban Detroit high school deserve suspensions for joining the latest viral dance craze? Not according to a recent poll. Most people thought it was harmless fun.
Gene Patents A gene patent case now in the Supreme Court is attracting a lot of attention, not only because of its importance to scientific research and health care but also because of its potential free speech implications. Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics challenges the validity of patents held by Myriad on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene, [...]
Journalist and scholar H.L. Mencken famously said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” The simple—and wrong—response to mass violence, regularly offered up by pundits and talking heads, is to blame it on representations of violence in the media, especially video games. The reaction to the December 2012 nightmarish shootings in [...]
NCAC recently launched the first-ever “Museum Best Practices for Managing Controversy” at the College Arts Association Conference in New York City. The document is designed for museums and other cultural institutions concerned about accusations of inappropriate or offensive content, and offers guidelines on how to deal with potential controversies. You can find the guidelines—a joint project with other national [...]
by Noah Berlatsky The job of American schools, as enforced by the bureaucracy, isn’t really education. It’s censorship. A colleague of mine working on a world history course was told to omit the fact that gay people were targeted during the Holocaust. I was told that I could not, for sensitivity reasons, include a test passage about storms at [...]
We were deeply saddened by the death of S Jay Levy, a longtime friend and benefactor. A noted economist, he was widely recognized for his economic forecasts. Indeed, one respected commentator observed that he “probably has the best record of any economist in the U.S.” According to Bloomberg News, in 2005 Jay predicted that “the deflating housing bubble” [...]
A Background Paper1 Introduction We are working up a fever making new laws against touching, and we're more scandalized by a photograph or painting showing a nipple or a penis than by the image of a starving child on a dry, dusty road. Thomas Moore, Mother Jones, September/October 1997 It's Sodom and Gomorrah all over again Dr. Robert L. Simonds, [...]
In recent years, at least 20 states have either amended existing anti-bullying and school safety laws to include language prohibiting bullying via electronic means, or have created separate statutes focusing on cyberbullying. Definitions of cyberbullying vary in the scope of behavior they cover. Some state statutes and school codes describe it as a type of criminal harassment or stalking. Others [...]
NCAC congratulates the winners of our 2011 Youth Free Expression Film Contest, whose films were screened at the New York Film Academy on March 31st. 1st Place: The Right To Bully? by Jake Gogats and Caitlin Wolper; 2nd Place: Don't Use Your Rights to Make Wrongs by Summer Lee; 3rd Place: Expressing Freedom in 140 Words or Less by Patrick [...]
by Svetlana Mintcheva, NCAC Director of Programs The New Speech Regulators: PayPal The Web in 2012 is far from the free speech utopia imagined at its dawn back in the early 90’s. Terms-of-service agreements, capricious moderators and automatic systems limit what we can post on Facebook or YouTube; Amazon purges its virtual shelves of offensive content (cf. CN 115). We [...]
In January 2012, when Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) students returned from a long weekend, they found teachers boxing up books, and already emptied classroom bookshelves. Literally hundreds – perhaps thousands – of books were packed up and sent to a warehouse. Some of the boxes were marked “Banned.” Students were witnessing the shutdown of the district’s acclaimed Mexican-American Studies [...]
Golan v. Holder Decision In a 6-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a law that will restore copyright protection to foreign works that have previously been in the public domain in the U.S. The law was part of a global trade agreement requiring countries to protect works created in other member states unless the works’ copyright term [...]
Issue 117, Fall 2012 Sex is, as the late Justice William Brennan said, “a great and mysterious motive force in human life [which] has indisputably been a subject of absorbing interest to mankind through the ages.” However, from 19th century vice societies and public morality campaigns to contemporary attacks on pornography, Americans have been at war over sexual expression [...]
Issue 117, Fall 2012 Ah, sex. We love to think about it, we also love to condemn it. Censors are second perhaps only to pornographers in the amount of time they spend talking about sex. NCAC was launched in the wake of a 1973 landmark obscenity case, Miller v. California, and to this day censorship of sex is the biggest [...]
The Supreme Court has played a major role in perpetuating our cultural ambivalence about sexual expression, on the one hand by affirming that sexual expression is constitutionally protected – at least for adults – and on the other by sanctioning government censorship of otherwise lawful sexual expression in the name of “protecting” minors. The result hasn’t always been pretty. Can [...]
Issue 117, Fall 2012 NCAC mourns the passing of Alan Reitman at age 91, on July 8, 2012, after a lifetime of dedication to the fight for free expression. Alan was one of the founders of NCAC and served on its board for many years, in addition to over 40 years of distinguished service with the ACLU. NCAC is grateful [...]
Issue 117, Fall 2012 Censorship is all about controlling what people think and do by regulating what they know and say. Nowhere is this more evident than in the never-ending battles over speech about sex, sexuality and reproduction. As noted in this issue, kids are the main target of censorship of sexual content. “Abstinence-only-until-marriage”programs in public schools eliminate discussion of [...]