CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS; OR THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.
In 1966 Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart gave this dissenting opinion in Ginzberg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 - "Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . .”
Why am I pointing this out?
September 27th to October 4th is Banned Books Week - Celebrating the freedom to read. This is the 27th anniversary of the American Library Association's attempt to draw attention to this basic democratic freedom - the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. The ALA stands on the principle that intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.
What are the four most frequent reasons for petitioning for censorship? They are family values, religion, political views, and minority rights.
Would you be surprised to know that Mark Twain and Toni Morrison are on the most challenged author list? That To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland were once on banned book lists? This is why it is so important to uphold and support our freedom to read what we wish because if we don't, it soon follows that we will not be able to think or say what we believe.
Here is what Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had to say about regulating thought (Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition):
“First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought."
Please support Banned Book Week in your community. The American Library Association website has a complete list of ways to participate and draw attention to the cause. As a writer and lover of books I think this is such an important issue and freedom provided to us in the founding documents of our nations, one that we must remain on vigilant watch to protect.