Liberals Abandoning the First Amendment, Part 4: Banning Books in Virginia

by on October 3, 2008 · 15 comments

When I open the Washington Post in the morning and find a headline like, “Banned Books, Chapter 2,” I assume that I will be reading about yet another attempt by certain conservative or religious groups to ban books from local libraries that they find objectionable, unethical, or sacrilegious. How ironic then that the debate over banning books that is currently unfolding in my home county of Fairfax County, Virginia, is being led by liberals. My ongoing series about “Liberals Abandoning the First Amendment” has been focusing on Lefties getting weak-kneed about free speech principles that they have traditionally supported, but this one takes the cake.

Here’s what is going on here in Fairfax according to Michael Alison Chandler of the Post:

During a week that librarians nationwide are highlighting banned books, conservative Christian students and parents showcased their own collection outside a Fairfax County high school yesterday — a collection they say was banned by the librarians themselves.

More than 40 students, many wearing black T-shirts stamped with the words “Closing Books Shuts Out Ideas,” said they tried to donate more than 100 books about homosexuality to more than a dozen high school libraries in the past year. The initiative, organized by Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, was intended to add a conservative Christian perspective to shelves that the students said are stocked with “pro-gay” books.

Most of the books were turned down after school librarians said they did not meet school system standards. Titles include “Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting” and “Someone I Love Is Gay,” which argues that homosexuality is not “a hopeless condition.” “We put ourselves out there . . . and got rejected,” said Elizabeth Bognanno, 17, a senior at West Springfield High School, standing before a semicircle of television cameras outside her school. “Censoring books is not a good thing. . . . We believe our personal rights have been violated.”

Now let me be perfectly clear about something. I find the themes of some of these books as distasteful and intolerant as many on the Left do. But I also find Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” distasteful and intolerant and yet I would never call for it to be banned from a library. In fact, I absolutely want it there. I want to make sure that people see what such hatred and intolerance can lead to. And I want people to aggressively respond to it and express their opposition to such thinking.  But they can only do that if they can read it for themselves.

It troubles me greatly that liberals — the supposed defenders of First Amendment and those typically most opposed to the idea of banning books — would fall into this trap based largely on the fact that they find the books in question to be distasteful or offensive.  As is always the case, the solution to bad speech is more speech, not censorship.

By the way, here is the website for the National Banned Books Week effort.  Do yourself a favor and read one of them.

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