The next time you hear a Republican rave on about "moral issues", ask a question: What's moral about censorship?
Don't let that righteous Republican guffaw and humph a denial that the Republican Party stands for censorship. Ask a follow-up question: Why is the Republican Party's leadership refusing to take a stand against the bill to censor books in Alabama?
Take advantage of your Republican friend's confused silence. Use the opportunity to provide some information about one aspect of the dark underside of the Republican Party's post-election agenda.
In the red state of Alabama, Republican state representative Gerald Allen has introduced a bill that would ban a huge list of books from libraries, universities, and schools. Specifically, Allen has proposed a law that would prohibit "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle."
It's not just political books advocating freedom for gays and lesbians that would be banned. Any book with a gay or lesbian character would also be banned. Also, any books that discuss homosexuality without condemning it would be forbidden.
If the Republican politician has his way, students at Alabama colleges and universities would not be allowed to read biology textbooks that discuss the role of genetics in the development of sexual preference. University theatre groups would be unable to outlawed from performing Tennessee Willliams' play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". Alice Walker's book "The Color Purple" would become contraband. Even reading "Bridget Jones' Diary" would become illegal. John Irving's "The World According to Garp" would be confiscated if found on library shelves, and students would not be allowed to discuss "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. Even Stephen King's book "It" would be categorized as illegal.
In public schools, the law would make it illegal for teachers, administrators, or adult visitors to say anything about homosexuality other than to condemn it as wicked.
But it's not just books and speech that include references to homosexuality that would be outlawed by Allen's law. Any mention of sexual activity prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of Alabama would be censored as well. So, even nonfiction books that refer to the practice of oral sex between married heterosexuals would be put on the list of banned books.
Gerald Allen says that the removal of banned books from libraries and schools would not be sufficient. He says that his law would also require that all outlawed books be destroyed. "I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," Allen suggests.
Such massive censorship and destruction of banned books is highly reminiscent of the some of the worst scenes of fascist oppression leading up to World War II. Mark Potok, spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, remarks, "It sounds like Nazi book burning to me." The educational community in Alabama is likewise outraged. "It's censorship at its worst, and it also keeps Alabama at the top of the list as a laughingstock in the United States," says Donna Schremser, Director of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library.
So, where does the Republican Party stand on Gerald Allen's bill? The leadership of the Alabama Republican Party will not reject the proposed legislation. George W. Bush and the national Republican elites in Washington D.C. have likewise refused to condemn Allen's attempt to censor and destroy huge numbers of books.
As long as the powerful leaders of the Republican Party in Alabama and across America refuse to speak out against Gerald Allen's attempt to ban books, we can only conclude that the censorship and destruction of books fits in perfectly with Republican efforts to excite right-wing furor over what they call "moral issues."
Actions similar to those of Gerald Allen are being taken by Republican politicians all across America. In the face of this Republican onslaught against the freedom of speech, to be accused of immorality is rapidly becoming a mark of honor.
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