That’s the response we’ve been receiving as we’ve been talking about our next Freedom Reads banned book discussion. People are in disbelief that a book that got millions of children (and adults) reading again is among the ranks of “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Of Mice and Men.”
So why was it? According to a 2001 New York Times article on Harry Potter topping the list of most challenged books in 2000, “parents and others mostly complained about the books’ alleged occult/Satanic and anti-family themes, and violence.”
In that same article, Virginia Walter, president of the American Library Association’s Association for Library Service to Children sagely said, “‘Parents have every right to make decisions for their own children, but they do not have the right to restrict the choices of others or censor for others.”
Tomorrow, we welcome University of Maryland professor Michelle Markey Butler to lead our second Freedom Reads discussion, a series brought to you by the 1st Amendment Society, Frederick County Public Libraries and Flying Dog Brewery.
This summer, the 1st Amendment Society and Frederick County Public Library are hosting a series of talks on banned books in the tasting room. The “Freedom Reads” series will feature:
- Garrett Epps on Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass: Garrett is a legal scholar, author, journalist, contributing editor for The Atlantic, and professor of constitutional law and creative writing for law students at the University of Baltimore. He will speak to the U.S. Constitution through the lens of Leaves of Grass on Wednesday, June 8.
- Dr. Michelle Markey Butler on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: Michelle is a lecturer at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies/Honors College. She currently teaches a course on Harry Potter and will speak to why this book, which is near and dear to adults and children alike, is often banned on Wednesday, July 13.
- Ronald Collins on Allen Ginsburg’s Howl: Ron is currently the Harold S. Shefelman Scholar at the University of Washington School of Law and has clerked for Chief Justice Warren Burger, taught at Stanford, Temple and GW and worked with the Newseum’s First Amendment Center. An author of biographies on both Lenny Bruce and Allen Ginsburg, Ron on will discuss the banned poem on Wednesday, August 10.
Each Freedom Reads talk will begin at 6 pm. They’re free and open to anyone over that sacred age of 21.
Freedom of speech is the last defense against tyranny and oppression, and it is being chipped away at, bit-by-bit, every day, at every level.
I attended the First Annual “Free Expression Awards” in DC a few weeks ago. One of honorees was James Risen, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist. Risen wrote a book exposing a very questionable CIA operation. While writing the book, his email and phone were monitored by the CIA, along with his credit card and bank records, and who knows what else. The Bush administration took Risen to court to force him to reveal his source, which is not surprising. However, the Obama administration did not drop it and instead went after Risen even more aggressively than the Bush administration. After a 7-year legal battle ending up in the Supreme Court in 2014, and Risen refusing to reveal his source, the Supreme Court actually ruled AGAINST Risen and effectively against freedom of the press. Risen was facing federal prison time before the attorney general got directly involved in 2015.
Defending the 1st Amendment in the 21st Century is more important than ever.