Tag Archives: First Amendment Rights

Arlene’s Flower Shop of Hate…

15 Apr
I love Jesus, but I'm against civil rights.

I love Jesus, but I’m against civil rights.

The State of Washington has filed a lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flower Shop for unlawful discrimination. Stutzman, who was perfectly happy to have a gay couple as customers for years, declined to provide flowers for their wedding.  Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said:

…it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington. Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation.  If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same sex couples the same product or service.

Stutzman has stated that she is not homophobic and that she has gay friends and gay employees, but she cannot do a “gay wedding because of her relationship with Jesus Christ.”  I guess, Jesus says it is okay to take money from gay folk up until they want equal rights for marriage — I’m not sure what book in the bible says that, but I’m sure it must be in there somewhere.  I also always love the reply, “but some of my best friends are (fill in the appropriate targeted/marginalized population).  If Stutzman really does have gay employees, I hope they are able to escape and work someplace else.

Now the rather sticky issue of the law.  While the law most certainly does provide for freedom of religion, the other part (usually and most conveniently forgotten) is that religion may not preclude people’s civil rights in the public sphere.  Stutzman’s religion also used to reject miscegenation. Does this mean she can reject an interracial marriage?  No one is asking Frau Stutzman to abandon her relationship with Jesus.  We are asking that she respect the law and allow civil rights for all humans — I guess that idea of civil rights has not reached her Jesus yet.

Free Your Mind: Read a Banned Book!

24 Sep

Every year the American Library Association (ALA) sponsors Banned Books Week to celebrate the freedom to read. Starting today, September 24, through October 1, 2011, TSM encourages everyone to take the time to celebrate and appreciate the freedom of information and expression inherent in our national principles.

Sadly, many people wish to impose their views or values on others and restrict access to information they feel is dangerous for a variety of reasons. Some of these people are well-intentioned, but many set out to block views with which they disagree.

Typical targets for challenges are:

  • Sexual content, especially materials dealing with homosexuality
  • Content perceived as conflicting with religious or moral values
  • Age-appropriateness of materials
  • Portrayals of witchcraft or devil worship
  • Materials perceived as subversive or unpatriotic

ALA compiles a list of the most-challenged books each year which it releases in April during National Library Week. The 2010 top ten includes books in most of these categories and, as usual, is heavy on materials for children and teens. Champion challenge lists have been compiled for each of the past two decades as well; the 2000 – 2009 list was led (by a wide margin) by the Harry Potter series, proving that popularity is no insulation from the clutches of ignorance.

In libraries, there is an important distinction between a book being challenged and being banned. Anyone who uses the library may question the inclusion of material in its collection. Good libraries have strong policies that describe what they collect and how they provide access to it. When a challenge is placed, the library (or its board or other leadership in some cases) can decide to reject the challenge, place restrictions on the material (such as moving a book from the children’s area to the adult area), or get rid of it altogether. A banned book is one that has been removed. Libraries report hundreds of challenges to their collections each year. Since reporting is voluntary, it is safe to assume that there are many more challenges that occur.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if we did not have Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

See what all the fuss is about! Take the time to read a banned book this week. Whether you find something challenging that makes you think or experience a great read and wonder what the controversy was, you’ll be glad you did.

(As an added bonus, McGill University has compiled this list of banned books, all of which include links to lists of local libraries so you can borrow and read them!)

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