American Library Association, Banned Book Week:
Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States. Intellectual freedom – the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular – provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.
The ALA provides many resources related to Banned Books Week, including a compilation of frequently challenged books that can be arranged by author, year or literary status.
I am an advocate of freedom of speech. Here are some unorthodox and unpopular ideas that were banned or challenged in the United States in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Sean D. Fitzgerald and Zachary E. Tucker were students at the University of Missouri Columbia. On 26 February 2010, during Black History Month, they spread cotton balls in front of the University’s Black Cultural Center. Fitzgerald and Tucker were suspended from the University, arrested for tampering and convicted of hate crimes. They were sentenced to two years of probation, eighty hours of community service, and a sixty day suspension of their drivers’ licenses.
American Renaissance is a website owned by Jared Taylor and Henry Wolff. American Renaissance conducts an annual conference. The hotel that was to host the conference cancelled their contract, as did the replacement hotel, as did the third replacement, as did the fourth. These hotels cancelled based on telephoned threats of violence should the conference occur on their property. The conference was cancelled as a whole.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the creators of the television series South Park. The two-hundredth and two-hundredth and first episode of South Park, aired 14 and 21 April 2010, included a depiction of Muhammad. For this Zachary Adam Chesser publicly called for the death of Parker and Stone. Chesser is now serving a twenty-five year sentence for this threat and for attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Mitch Kahle and Kevin Hughes are members of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church. On 29 April 2010 the Hawaiian State Legislature opened with a prayer to Jesus. Kahle stood up, said “I object. My name is Mitch Kahle and I object to this prayer on the grounds that it’s a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. I object.” Kahle was wrestled to the ground and arrested for disorderly conduct. The video camera operated by Hughes was punched from his hands and seized.
David Irving is a historian. On 24 March 2010 Irving and attendees of a conference on history in Norridge, Illinois were assaulted by Jeremy Hammond and five other protesters. An individual not associated with the conference was also assaulted. Hammond was sentenced to four days in jail.
Molly Norris was a cartoonist living in Seattle, Washington. Reasoning that if more people made depictions of Muhammad that Muslims couldn’t kill all such artists, she proposed an ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day’ for 20 May 2010. For this Anwar al-Awlaki publicly called for the death of Norris. Norris changed her name, stopped being a cartoonist, moved to another location and has no ties to her family or friends.
Dearborne, Michigan, is home to the Arab International Festival, an annual event. In August 2010 Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, David Wood, and Paul Rezkalla attended the event wearing shirts featuring Christian messages. They did not hand out literature and they only spoke when spoken to. They were arrested and removed from the Festival. Three days later Qureshi, Woods and Rezkalla distributed Christian literature outside the Festival. They were arrested, and their video cameras and telephones were seized. While in custody police forced them to erase some of their video recordings. The three were charged with inciting unrest, charges that were later dropped.
Tiawanda Moore lives in Chicago, Illinois. In August 2010 she filed a complaint of sexual harassment against a police officer. She recorded herself filing the complaint. Police arrested Moore for eavesdropping and she served two weeks in jail. The charge was later acquitted.
Terry Jones is the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Florida. Jones announced he was going to burn a Qur’an on September 11th. On 9 September 2010 United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called Rev. Terry Jones and told him not to burn a Qur’an. Jones did not burn a Qur’an.
In January 2011, the State of Arizona barred protests within 300 feet of a funeral one hour before the funeral starts, for the duration of the funeral, and one hour after the funeral ends.
In February 2011, an unknown group defaced the website of Westboro Baptist Church.
In February 2011, the Department of Homeland Security seized control of 84,000 web sites. The content of the sites was replaced with a notice that the site had been seized as part of Operation Save Our Children, a campaign against child pornography. Ten of the 84,000 sites were found to distribute child pornography, while 83,900 were privately held or small business sites having no connection to child pornography. The DHS did not issue any apology or explanation to the owners of the 83,900 innocent sites seized.
Michael Oren is an Israeli diplomat. Oren was invited to speak at the University of California, Irvine. Ten members of the Muslim Student Union shouted down his speech one by one, until Oren gave up and the speech was cancelled.
Pamela Geller is an author. Geller purchased advertising space on city-owned public transit vehicles. The advertisements showed an airplane about to crash into the World Trade Center, the (then) proposed ground zero mosque, and the words “Why There?” Geller was told that the advertisement could not include images of 9/11 or an airplane. She submitted a second advertisement showing smoke rising from the World Trade Center buildings and was told that was also unacceptable. She submitted a third advertisement that showed the World Trade Centers before 9/11 that, incidentally, included an airplane in the distance. She was told this was also unacceptable. Geller requested but was never given guide lines for advertisements with the city. The city quoted the owners of the ground zero mosque as saying it had nothing to do with ground zero. Geller sued the city and won the legal right to advertise on city-owned public transit vehicles.
American Renaissance scheduled their annual conference for 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Patrick Cannon, Mayor pro-tem of Charlotte, contacted the hosting hotel and all other hotels in the area, putting them “on notice” about the conference. The hosting hotel cancelled their contract with American Renaissance and no other area hotel would host the conference.
On 20 April 2011 Terry Jones and associate pastor Wayne Sapp planned to stage a protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborne, Michigan. Dearborn District Court Judge Mark Somers and a six-member jury ordered Jones and Sapp arrested for being “likely to create a ‘breach of the peace.’” Jones and Sapp paid their $1.00 bail and were released.
Greg ball is a Senator in New York State. On 12 April 2011 Ball received an anonymous package in the mail from a “defender of Allah” greeting Ball as a “dead man walking” for his “war against Muslims.”
In 2011 David Irving began a tour of the United States to promote his work. In Indianapolis, Indiana, protesters threw bricks through the window of the restaurant he was to speak at. The restaurant cancelled the engagement as well as the monthly meetings of the group hosting Irving. The hotel Irving was to stay at was similarly vandalized. Irving cancelled the engagement entirely.
Emily Good lives in Rochester, New York. In May 2011 she made a video recording of police conducting a traffic stop in front of her house. She was arrested. Charges were dropped.
Dancing is illegal at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. In May 2011 a group danced at the Jefferson Memorial in protest against the dancing ban. Five of them were arrested.
Michael Allison lives in Illinois. In June 2011 police came to his mother’s house in response to complaints the property was an eyesore due to the cars he was repairing. Allison made a video recording of the police, who arrested him for eavesdropping. He faced a possible sentence of seventy-five years in prison but was later acquitted.
Carmela Panico owns several coffee stands named Java Juggs in Edmonds, Washington. On 30 June 2011 she and four employees were arrested and charged with prostitution. Wearing revealing clothes isn’t illegal, nor is removing those clothes, nor is removing clothes for money. Removing ones’ clothes for money without a license from the State is illegal.
Rashunta Pruitt, Jessica Overton, Britney Colston, and Iman Anderson were employees at the A&D Seafood & Bar in Mobile, Alabama. Police entered the bar and arrested these four women, charging them with dissemination of obscene material. The police also issued two tickets for failing to conceal women’s nipples.
Zoe West is a model. Andy Golub is a painter. On 30 August 2011 Golub painted West’s body in Times Square in New York City. West was arrested, held for two hours and released without charge.
Occupy Wall Street is a protest against disparities in wealth begun on 17 September 2011. There are many well-documented instances of assaults against protesters (by police and by other / fellow protesters), the seizure of recording equipment by police, and the prevention of protest.
Ernie Perce is a member of Atheists of Central Pennsylvania. On 31 October 2011 he participated in a Halloween parade dressed as an undead Muhammad. Talaag Elbayomy entered the parade route, physically assaulted Perce, then requested police arrest Perce for insulting Muhammad. Perce took Elbayomy to court for assault. District Judge Mark Martin identified himself as a Muslim, disallowed witness testimony and video evidence that confirmed Perce’s charges, called Perce a doofus, encouraged him to respect Islam and dismissed the charge. Judge Martin then held Perce in contempt of court for distributing recordings of the court proceedings.
Carl Paul lives in Pompano Beach, Florida. Police pulled his car over. Paul began recording the police. The police noticed he was recording, told him to stop, and when Paul did not stop he was arrested for illegal interception of communication.
Steve Cooksey is a food blogger in Stanley, North Carolina. In January 2012 the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutrition serviced Cooksey notice that he could not publish dietary advice without a dietary license. Cooksey was not to recommend food choices to friends or strangers on his blog, in email, or on the telephone. [Special thanks to 9 Banded Books.]
John Kiriakou is an author and former CIA analyst. In December 2007 on ABC News Kiriakou described the torture of prisoners carried out during the Bush administration. On 23 January 2012 Kiriakou was charged with disclosing classified information. Kiriakou faces a possible 45 year prison sentence. No one who ordered torture, carried out torture, kidnapped people for torture, tortured people to death, or destroyed evidence for torture during the Bush-Obama administrations has been charged or (now that the last two cases have been dismissed) will ever be charged.
Anna Gristina lives in Manhattan, New York. On 22 February 2012 she was arrested during a meeting with the Morgan Stanley banking firm. She was charged with one count of promoting prostitution. Her bail was set at two million dollars, she was ordered to surrender her passport, and she has been fitted with an electronic monitoring device. Her bail was later reduced. [Special thanks to SWAAY.]
StandWithUs is an organization that supports Israel. StandWithUs invited two speakers to the University of California, Davis to speak on 27 February 2012. When the speakers began, they were shouted down by members of the Muslim Student Union. Campus security were asked to address the hecklers. Campus security replied: “We have been instructed by our superior not to stop hecklers, and if you try to stop the hecklers, we have been instructed to close down the program.”
Nonie Darwish is an author. In February 2012 Darwish was invited to speak at the University of New Mexico. She was shouted down by members of Student for Justice in Palestine. Congregation B’nai Israel Sisterhood and B’nai’s Rabbi Arthur Flicker later withdrew their support for Darwish, citing her work as “hate speech.”
bodog.com is an online gambling site owned by a Canadian company. In March 2012 the site was seized by the United States government. The US Government claims that while online gambling is legal in Canada, the site is subject to US laws because the US company VeriSign administers the top level domain .com.
John E. Brennan is a resident of Portland Oregon. On 17 April 2012 he objected to questioning by TSA agents at Portland International Airport. In protest, he stripped naked. He was arrested. Charges were later dropped.
On 23 April 2012, Simi Valley, California passed a law requiring men to wear condoms in sex videos. [Special thanks to SWAAY.]
Robert Spencer is an author. The David Horowitz Foundation and The Students For Intellectual Freedom invited Spencer to speak at Temple University in Arizona on 24 April 2012. He was shouted down by part of the audience. Campus security observed and did not intervene.
The European Heritage Group met in a restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois on 19 May 2012. Fifteen people entered the restaurant and assaulted the Group with hammers and bats. Restaurant staff and patrons were also assaulted. Five people have been arrested for the assault.
Terrell and Shanell Madison live in Mississippi. On 1 May 2012 they made a video recording of a police firefight. Police arrested the Madisons and seized the phones used to make the recordings.
On 3 May 2012, seven women were arrested for operating a massage parlor without a license in Houston, Texas.
Women With a Vision is an HIV/AIDS and sex worker resource in New Orleans. On 24 May 2012 their office was subject to an arson attack. [Special thanks to SWAAY.]
Pamela Geller was scheduled to speak to the the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on 1 July 2012. The group cancelled the event due to “concerns that the building might be stormed by Muslim activists” and “threats from ‘left-wing’ donors.” The hosting hotel offered to pay for additional security but was declined. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has apologized to Geller.
Jennifer Gondola is a real-estate agent in New Haven, Connecticut. On 2 June 2012 she made a video recording of an arrest. The arresting officer ordered she stop recording and surrender the phone she was using to make the recording. Gondola declined and put the phone in her bra. Gondola was arrested and a different officer seized her phone. Her phone has not been returned.
Sharon Prudhomme is the co-owner of Prudhomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen in Columbia, Pennsylvania. The restaurant offers a discount to anyone who brings a church bulletin to the restaurant. In July 2012 Prudhomme was served papers by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission on behalf of John Wolff, an atheist in Manheim Township. The PA HRC suggested she offer a discount to anyone who asks for a discount. Prudhomme said “This is our business. We’re the ones paying the taxes. We need the people coming in. Our life is in this – and then to have someone come along and tell me what I can do and what I can’t do?”
The University of California is the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. An advisory pannel made up of students published reports to UC President Mark Yudof in July 2012. The University of California Jewish Student Campus Climate Fact-Finding Team Report & Recommendations wrote: “UC should push its current harassment and nondiscrimination provisions further, clearly define hate speech in its guidelines, and seek opportunities to prohibit hate speech on campus. The President should request that General Counsel examine opportunities to develop policies that give campus administrators authority to prohibit such activities on campus.” The Muslim & Arab Student Campus Climate at the University of California Fact-Finding Team Report & Recommendations wrote: “We attend UC Davis hoping that the campus will be a place where we can learn and share the truth of our histories, free of hate groups and hate speech.” Both groups also called for more rooms reserved for meditation and prayer, more halal and kosher food in cafeterias, and the segregation of Muslim women in housing.
In August 2012 the state of Missouri passed the House of Worship Protection Act. The Act makes it a misdemeanor applicable to anyone who “intentionally injures, intimidates, or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person lawfully exercising the right of religious freedom in or outside of a house of worship or seeking access to a house of worship, whether by force, threat, or physical obstruction.” The Act defines a “‘house of worship’ [as] any church, synagogue, mosque, other building or structure, or public or private place used for religious worship, religious instruction, or other religious purpose.” [Special thanks to Religion Clause.]
Terry Kemple is a school board candidate in Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida. He invited speakers to a press conference to talk about Islam. The guest speakers were shouted down by protesters. Protester Charles Allen, graduate student of University of South Florida, is quoted as saying: “We are here because we don’t stand for religious intolerance.”
Brigham City requires Main Street Church to obtain a permit before handing out literature on city-owned sidewalks. This has been challenged in Main Street Church of Brigham City v. Brigham City, Utah, filed September 2012.
The New York City Board of Health passed a resolution on 13 September 2012 that before a mohel can suck the blood from an infant’s newly-mutilated penis, the mohel must inform the infant’s parents of the health risks involved. Agudath Israel of America announced it will sue the NYC Board of Health because “this regulation is unconstitutional on the grounds that it interferes with both freedom of religion and speech (the latter, because it requires the mohel to distribute certain information to parents).”
On 11 September 2012 film-maker Eric Allen Bell joined in a panel discussion titled “Sharia and the Constitution” in Orange County, California. Afterward he received death threats via facebook from Habib Cutler, Abdul Moueed; Limsa Slim, Shoeb Nazeer, Ahmad Nauman, Khanyari Sangbaaz, Imad Ud Din Zangi, Zahid Fazil, Xû Hå Îß, Mohsin Gul Shah, Anees Bhatt, Shaheen Irshad, Sameer Khanna, Nadeem Sufi, Rockstar Suiez, Danish Pathan, Nabeel Abdulkareem Adam Vohra, Mudasir Dar, Aswaan Ali Mohamed, Χουραμ Σαχζαντ and Éxtrêmë Êñìgmâ Xâhïdz. Facebook responded by suspending Bell’s account.
A person wishing to use a pseudonym posted a video called Innocence of Muslims to YouTube. Wired magazine (Alexia ranking 724) published the person’s prior name.
The Southern Poverty Law Center blamed the video for the death of several men in the Middle East. Sarah Chayes, former special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Innocence of Muslims “is not, arguably, free speech protected under the U.S. Constitution and the values it enshrines.” Dan Gilgoff of CNN wrote: “The deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans amid protests against a film that denigrates Islam has sparked global discussion and debate about whether there is a line between free speech and hate speech and, if so, where it lies.” Imam Mohammad Qatanani of New Jersey said Americans “have no right to [discuss] holy issues” because that will cause “hatred or war among people. [...] My position is that White House has to stay strong in its condemnation [of the filmmaker] and take this person to court. If he is innocent, we will accept that. The government has strong case against this person.”
The Obama administration flagged the video to be reviewed at YouTube. Google, owner of YouTube, declined to remove the video. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Innocence of Muslims is “a film that we have judged to be reprehensive and disgusting” and “We don’t question the right of [comic images of Muhammad in Hebdo magazine of France] to be published, we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it. And I think that’s our view about the video that was produced in this country and has caused so much offense in the Muslim world.” United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey called Rev. Terry Jones and told him not to support the video. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared in a $70,000 commercial on Pakistani television denouncing the video. In the $70,000 video Obama says “we reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others” and Clinton says “we absolutely reject its content and message.” Both spoke of religious tolerance. Neither spoke of freedom of speech.
The campus of the University of Texas and the campus of North Dakota State University were evacuated after bomb threats were made. Advertisements in the Washington DC public transit system purchased by Pam Geller were cancelled “due to the situations happening around the world at this time… The reason for this decision is one of security and safety for the commuters using the DC Metro rail system.”
On 15 September 2012 Nakoula Besseley Nakoula (logistics director for Innocence of Muslims) was “taken to the Cerritos sheriff’s station for interviewing by federal probation officers aimed at determining whether he violated the terms of his 5-year probation by uploading a video to the Internet” according to NBC News.
What is to be done:
1. If you have some measure of freedom of speech, use it. Use some of it to aid those who have less.
2. Another person’s freedom of speech can influence your mood and thought for a time. You remain capable of controlling your actions. If you are not capable of controlling your actions, seek professional help. If you meet someone who claims they are not capable of controlling their actions, take them at their word and view them with caution. Uncouple the concepts “understand” and “agree.”
3. The proper response to freedom of speech is more freedom of speech.
4. Slaughter‘s Law: “When one person accuses another of ‘hiding behind the First Amendment,’ the first person is in the wrong, no matter what else they have to say.”
5. Attend to the words of bullies, reply with immutable courage heralded by cruel mockery. That goes double for bullies who blame their actions on an invisible monster that lives in the sky.