Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Censorship or Removal of a Book with "Factual Flaws"?

This is an interesting article that gets right to the heart of some censorship battles: what if someone wants a book banned not because of differing of opinions, but because the factual content of the book is (supposedly) wrong?
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which specializes in constitutional law, today filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in support of a school district’s decision in Florida to remove a factually-flawed book about Cuba from the school library – a decision that triggered a lawsuit by the ACLU. A federal district court held that the decision to replace the book violated the First Amendment rights of students. The ACLJ brief urges the appeals court to overturn that decision arguing that the school board has the authority to provide accurate and factual information to students.

“This case is about ensuring that students receive accurate and factual information – not about the suppression of ideas,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, which filed the amicus brief in support of the school district. “Once again, the ACLU is using the courts to bully a school board that did what any school board should do – look out for the best interest of its students. The local school board is supposed to be the microcosm of the democratic process. Parents exercise their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children by electing school board members and entrusting them with their children’s education. The Miami-Dade County School Board acted in a sound and proper manner. We’re hopeful that the appeals court will reject the ACLU’s flawed argument and respect the authority and judgment of the community-based school board that knows what’s best for its students.”

This case involves a dispute in Miami-Dade County, Florida over a book, A Visit To Cuba, that was placed in public school libraries. The book was intended for 4-to-8 year old children and made claims that life in Cuba is no different than life in the United States. Many in the community who suffered greatly under the Communist regime in Cuba were outraged at the book’s inaccuracies and misstatements. The school board decided to replace the Cuba book, and the series it is a part of, with a more accurate set of books.
This line in particular stuck out at me:
“The Board’s concern was the accuracy of facts and the need to prepare students to be well-informed citizens, not the suppression of ideas,” the brief argues. “This determination poses no constitutional crisis. Rather, it falls within the category of routine, discretionary decisions made by thousands of school boards across the country on a daily basis.”
But there's the rub. What if some people say the facts aren't wrong? And sure enough, two review committees and the school's own superintendent (as well as the first judge who heard the case) all came to the conclusion that the book should stay; Publishers Weekly reviewed the book favorably, saying the book (which is part of a series) is "informative and colorful," offering information "in simple statements without commentary." Among the book's supposedly "misleading" information are such controversial statements as "People in Cuba eat, work, and go to school like you do."

I know this is a hot button issue for some immigrants from Cuba, but it looks to me like banning this book definitely does pose a constitutional crisis.

3 Comments:

Blogger Rosemary Graham said...

Brent--

The characterization of this book as "factually flawed" is the ACLJ's. The ACLJ describes itself as "dependent upon God and the resources He provides through the time, talent, and gifts of people who share our concerns and desire to protect our religious and constitutional freedoms."

They describe our constitutional rights as "God-given."

Their website tells how the Constitution guarantees our right to preach the Gospel in public places .

Among the "misleading" information in this book are such controversial statements as "People in Cuba eat, work, and go to school like you do." See this ASIF post.

Posted by Rosemary

8:20 PM  
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