Issue 85, Spring 2002

The Long and the Short of it:

  • Michigan’s “cussing canoeist” was recently vindicated when the state appeals court struck down a 105-year-old law banning vulgar language in front of women and children. Timothy Boomer was convicted in 1998, after cursing when he fell out of his canoe.
  • Judy Blume’s Forever has been returned to the Eastview Middle School library in Elgin, Illinois and William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice to La Mirada High School library in California (Censorship News 84).
  • NCAC has generated a public debate in Nashville, Tennessee in response to the Tennessee Arts Commission policy to not display nudes in the gallery. We were alerted to the controversy by artist Ernie Sandidge whose work was accepted for exhibition but then rejected because it contained nudity. We are planning a public forum to follow up on discussions that have appeared in the local press and on radio. We and many TN residents were amazed that an arts organization should put a blanket ban on one of the central subjects of art.
  • When Mayor Carolyn Risher of Inglis, Florida issued a proclamation to ban Satan from Inglis city limits, because “God told her to,” some residents hoped that crime rates would drop, but religious endorsement by government officials offends the First Amendment. Urged by the ACLU, the City Council repudiated the Mayor’s acts, required her to reimburse expenses, and removed the Satan-banishing signs.

New and Noteworthy:

At the Schoolhouse Gate, Lessons in Intellectual Freedom, by Gloria Pipkin and ReLeah Cossett Lent. Two talented language arts teachers who created award-winning programs in Florida public schools, tell of herculean efforts to preserve students’ First Amendment rights while battling bureaucratic censorship. A must-read for those who care about teaching and learning.

The First Amendment and Civil Liberty, by Robert O’Neil, examines the threat to free speech and the press posed by lawsuits for damages against book publishers, movie producers and journalists.

Harmful to Minors, by Judith Levine, tackles the highly charged issue of minors and sexuality and argues that children and teenagers are more harmed by censorship and sexual repression than by ideas or information.

Censored Books II, Critical Viewpoints, 1985-2000, by Nicholas J. Karolides, is a set of new rationales to be used to defend frequently challenged books from Harry Potter to Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.

Nigger, The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, by Randall Kennedy, explores the use of the word and by whom, and analyzes the controversies to which it has given rise.

The Last Summer of Reason, by prize-winning Algerian author, Tahar Djaout, tells of the struggles of a freethinking bookstore owner against a fundamentalist regime taking over his country. The author was assassinated for “wielding a fearsome pen.”

X-Rated Children’s Books, an online newsletter, featuring book reviews and interviews with Banned, Censored, Challenged Authors of Banned, Censored Challenged and Burned Children’s Books. To subscribe, email [email protected]