Censorship denies freedom

Book banning limits opportunity to be challenged by differing perspectives

Springs Charter Schools in Temecula, California, have purged all Christian books from the school libraries. The administration claimed the book removal followed school protocol. Parents were alarmed to hear the news when a student came home and shared what happened.

expelled — California schools prohibited books from libraries. Google Images

Expelled — California schools prohibited books from libraries. Google Images

Well-known books such as Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place” and C. S. Lewis novels were nowhere to be found. This removal of religious material viewable to the public is unnerving to say the least.

“(Individual schools and libraries are) eager to protect everybody from hazards like ugly words, sedition, blasphemy, unwelcome ideas and, perhaps worst of all, reality,” a journalist wrote in a 1981 TIME essay on book banning titled “The Growing Battle of the Books.”

While the federal government has always remained separate from the practice, its reach remains as prevalent today as it was throughout history.

When confronted about the book banning, Kathleen Hermsmeyer, the school’s superintendent, denied any intent to discriminate.

“At no time, however, have we discriminated against Christian authors or publishing companies who create secular educational materials,” Hermsmeyer wrote in a letter to the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI).

Whether or not it is only Christian books taken from the shelves is not the main problem. As books are yanked from the shelves, so is the opportunity to learn. With greater knowledge comes greater freedom, and book banning is a radical step away from that liberation.

“The way I see it, book banning is just one step away from book burning,” Todd Starnes, a foxnews.com columnist, wrote. “And I don’t mean to pour gasoline on the fire, but we all know what regime did that.”

This violation of religious liberty and literary censorship has not gone unnoticed. A public records request has been filed by PJI. The organization is prepared to take further legal action if the school continues to mark out books strictly because they contain Judeo-Christian content, according to the Christian News Network.

“It is alarming that a school library would attempt to purge books from religious authors,” PJI President Brad Dacus said. “Indeed, some of the greatest literature of Western Civilization comes from people of faith. Are they going to ban the sermons or speeches of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? What about the Declaration of Independence that invokes the laws of nature and nature’s God? We are calling on Springs Charter Schools to immediately reverse their ill-conceived and illegal book-banning policy.”

But this school is not the only one limiting the scope of information students have access to, and no topic seems immune to censorship. In fact, John Green’s New York Times best-seller, “The Fault in Our Stars,” now a major motion picture, was banned from the Riverside, California, public school circuit by the Riverside Unified School District, according to the Los Angeles Times. The book — which includes some language and sexual references — chronicles the love between two teenagers diagnosed with cancer.

“I guess I am both happy and sad,” Green wrote of the book banning on his Tumblr blog. “I am happy because apparently young people in Riverside, California, will never witness or experience mortality since they won’t be reading my book, which is great for them. But I am also sad because I was really hoping I would be able to introduce the idea that human beings die to the children … and thereby crush their dreams of immortality.”

Green’s analysis shines a glaring light on the problem: censorship eliminates readers’ freedom to know, to understand and to experience ideas that may
challenge them.

When public administrations are given the power to limit access to certain information and literature — religious or secular — they are limiting students’ opportunity to decide for themselves what it is they believe.

GORDON is an opinion writer.


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