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Book Banning: Is Censorship a 'Christian Value?'


Woman protesting book banning
Photo source: @booksandbooks on Instagram

Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of our democracy. This basic right was so important to our forefathers, they decided to codify it with the very first amendment to the United States Constitution.


It is a precious freedom not enjoyed in many countries around the world. Most of us believe that what we have to say is important and should be listened to—sometimes we’re right; sometimes we’re wrong—but all of us should defend our right to say what’s on our minds, so long as it isn’t “hate.”


One of my favorite movie lines of all time comes from a fiery speech delivered by fictional president Andrew Shephard in “The American President.”


America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.


Wow! How powerful is that?


We live in a deeply divided country. Democrats and Republicans have always disagreed on important issues, including free speech, but, in the pre-Trump days, we might have a civil conversation or debate about issues and come to reasonable compromises. Since Trump’s rise to power, those days are over. There is a palpable and dangerous schism in America. We are done listening to each other or even considering the logic of the other person’s point of view. In this political environment, have we lost our ability to appreciate the preciousness of the 1st Amendment?


I recently got into an argument on Facebook about book-banning in Florida. A self-proclaimed “constitutional conservative” claimed that Florida’s government needed to ban certain books to protect the safety of kids. When I asked him if he felt the same way about banning guns, all hell broke loose.


Apparently, to some “constitutional conservatives,” certain sections of the Constitution count more than others. I call this constitutional hypocrisy. Apparently, to some, keeping our kids safe from books is more important than keeping our kids safe from guns.


The problem, though, is much more serious than banning a few books. “Keeping our kids safe” are buzz words for indoctrination, brainwashing, prejudice, fearmongering, and, yes, more divisiveness. Those who seek to ban books are unwilling to risk the possibility that students might self-educate and decide to live in a different America than those seeking the ban. Book-banners seek to create and foster ideological clones, not a free and robust exchange of ideas.


The controversy in Florida was self-inflicted, starting with the passage of a couple of statutes dubbed “The Stop Woke Act” and the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” The National Coalition Against Censorship is quite concerned about these two bills because they threaten students access to information, are “likely to cause a dramatic increase in censorship in Florida’s public schools.”


While Florida is alone in passing homophobic and politically motivated anti-expression legislation, it is not alone in what is becoming a very troubling national attack on literacy. In fact, the NCAC issued a statement condemning what it calls a national attack on books in schools. Published last December, the statement criticizes “ongoing attempts to purge schools of books.” The organization calls the effort a “partisan political battle” and, further, states:


“Libraries offer students the opportunity to encounter books and other material that they might otherwise never see and the freedom to make their own choices about what to read. Denying young people this freedom to explore–often on the basis of a single controversial passage cited out of context–will limit not only what they can learn but who they can become. Books help students connect with characters whose stories reflect their own lives. They also widen their view of a changing world that embraces diversity and multiculturalism . . . The First Amendment guarantees that no individual, group of individuals, legislator, community member, or even school board member can dictate what public school students are allowed to read based on their own personal beliefs or political viewpoint. It is freedom of expression that ensures that we can meet the challenges of a changing world. That freedom is critical for the students who will lead America in the years ahead. We must fight to defend it.”


In Idaho, a library director is quitting her job, saying “nothing in my background could have prepared me for the political atmosphere of extremism.” A group of Christian conservatives have pestered Bonners Ferry (population 2500) public library officials to ban books the library doesn’t even carry—this group wants the books pre-emptively banned. The director accuses the group of intimidation tactics and threatening behavior. How Christian of them.


Book ban attempts are trending all over this country. At one time or another, classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Catcher in the Rye, The Color Purple, The Kite Runner, and Lord of the Rings were on someone’s banned list. The hypocrisy of it all is palpable.


In the Bible, the Apostille Paul summarized “Christian values” as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” He does not list intolerance, intimidation, or censorship as “Christian values.

The clear focus of these so-called “Christian” groups is sexuality and alternative lifestyles. In Idaho, the controversy began because the little library planned to join the American Library Association, a national non-profit group that is known for fighting censorship. These so-called “Christians” have falsely accused the ALA of “promoting pedophilia.” I challenge any reader to visit the ALA website and find any reference or position statement that would even suggest such an outrageous charge.


In writing and passing the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution, our leaders recognized that open communication and a free exchange of ideas fosters unity, fellowship, and common ground. Censorship promotes division, disruption, narrowmindedness, ignorance, and intolerance. Whatever your religious affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, or political ideology, the 1st Amendment provides the freedom to live your life and express your views without oppression or legal consequence.


Can we all agree that this right is precious? Can we agree there is a reason why this was the very 1st amendment? The future of America depends on it.


Mark M. Bello is an attorney and award-winning legal thriller author. He and Lean to the Left’s Bob Gatty co-host Justice Counts, a legal-themed podcast. For more information about Mark and his work, please visit www.markmbello.com










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Guest
Aug 25, 2022

Thanks Bob. Very good. I'm a member of the Democratic People of Horry County.

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Guest
Aug 25, 2022

Great article Mark, thanks.

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