29 September – October 6 – Banned Book Week

This week sees the annual American Library Association’s Banned Book Week, a week dedicated to highlighting the censorship of the written word in the United States and beyond.

If you head over to the site you can find a list of the most challenged books of the year, as well as information on the 100 most challenged books of the decade 1990-2000. Given that some of the classics of western literature are on this list, and two in the top 10 have recently been made into movies, it makes for shocking reading. I am no great fan of the Harry Potter series of books, but I find it abhorrent and disgusting that there are places where children and adults are not allowed to read these books.

As the motto of Banned Books Week goes, Free People Read Freely. You may not agree with an author’s point, but you have no right to ban others from discovering whether or not they agree with that viewpoint. If you value freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of conscience then you have to value the right of authors to write what they wish and to allow readers to evaluate the work of these authors.

Looking at some of these banned books, you can tell what sort of person advocates banning them. They deal with themes of violence, homosexuality, racial equality, they give fair treatment to non-Christians. In some cases they are guidebooks to help children deal with issues of puberty, or self-help books for people in loving, adult relationships. I am pointing my finger at a certain breed of right-wing, Christian fundamentalist that one would hope is peculiar to, and dying out in, the United States, but sadly they are spreading.

To these people, who are generally quick to quote the US Constitution about their right to use a gun to shoot people, I say – there is a reason that the First Amendment is the FIRST Amendment. If you accorded the First Amendment even a fraction of the literal interpretation you give to the Second Amendment, or to the Bible, then there is no way you could even consider banning a book, for any reason.

Speaking of the Bible, if you wish to ban books because they advocate genocide, are rife with acts of cruelty, adultery, homosexuality, rape, child abuse, worship of false gods and other unsavoury acts, then the Bible itself would be ripe for banning.

Of course, as a supporter of freedom of thought, I wouldn’t dream of banning that book. It has as much right to exist as any other book out there. And if you wish to preserve that freedom for it to continue to exist, then you have to allow all the others.

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