Tag Archives: Intellectual freedom

Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there. — Clare Boothe Luce

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Freedom to Read week begins this year in Canada on February 26th and runs through March 4th. As a librarian, I support the right to intellectual freedom and stand firmly opposed to censorship. As to what is censorship, I find the following definition of what constitutes censorship formed by the American Library Association the most comprehensive and inclusive:

Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone. (American Library Association)

The key point in this definition is the fact that “the censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.” Continue reading

Art is permitted to survive only if it renounces the right to be different, and integrates itself into the omnipotent realm of the profane. — Theodor Adorno

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The religious and the secular came to a head at the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris when Saïd Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, French citizens of North African ancestry, armed with Kalashnikov rifles opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 11 in an Islamist terror attack. The attackers were heard shouting “Allahu akbar,” and “the Prophet has been avenged.” Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper published weekly, produces satire in the form of caricatures, scrappy opinion pieces and jokes from a left-wing perspective. Among the targets of its brand of satire are the three Abrahamic faiths: Roman Catholicism (Christianity), Islam and Judaism. The caricatures published in Charlie Hebdo quite often consist of crude representations of religious figures such as Pope Benedict and Mohammed. Not surprisingly, this offends many people and generates controversy. The publishers of Charlie Hebdo were prepared to die to defend their right to freedom of expression; whereas, the Islamist attackers were prepared to kill to defend their faith. In the aftermath of the terror attack, differences of opinion concerning the right of freedom of expression and of religious liberty came to the fore. What was it that motivated the publishers of Charlie Hebdo and the Islamist attackers that resulted in this atrocity? Continue reading

The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement. — John Stuart Mill

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The publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957 was a landmark in the movement that led to the destigmatization of homosexuality across the Western world in that it brought about the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967. This was accomplished with the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (48 & 49 Vict. c.69). Section 11 of the Act, in particular the clause known as the Labouchere Amendment, applied to male homosexuality. In short, the clause provided for a term of imprisonment “not exceeding two years”, with or without hard labour, for any man found guilty of “gross indecency” with another male, whether “in public or in private”. In 1953 the Home Secretary, David Maxwell Fyffe, referred to male homosexuality as a “plague over England,” and vowed to wipe it out. In 1954, the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution was convened with John Wolfenden appointed chairman. Continue reading

I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use. — Galileo Galilei

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I think Islam is in a sense, in crisis. It needs to question and re-question itself. — Azar Nafisi

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Criticism of religion is a tender subject. Criticism of Islam in particular is especially so as is evidenced by the court battle threatening to take shape between the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Jason MacDonald (spokesman for Prime Minister Harper). The NCCM filed a notice of libel in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice over remarks made by Jason MacDonald in dismissing their objection to the inclusion of Rabbi Daniel Korobkin of the Beth Avraham Yosef Synagogue in Toronto as part of the delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Harper on a visit to Israel in January 2014. MacDonald dismissed their objection stating “we will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to terrorist organization such as Hamas.” (as cited in CTV News) The NCCM objected to the inclusion of Rabbi Korobkin in the delegation accompanying Prime Minister Harper because he hosted speaking engagements featuring Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, two noted critics of Islam, in September 2013. Continue reading

A joke is a very serious thing. — Winston Churchill

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Recently, I learned that a popular radio show in Toronto, the Dean Blundell Show was cancelled, allegedly because of jokes aired about the trial of a man accused of sexual assaults on three men he met in a gay bath house. Dean Blundell is a shock jock, which is defined as “a type of radio broadcaster or disc jockey who entertains listeners or attracts attention using humour and/or melodramatic exaggeration that a notable portion of the listening audience may find offensive.” (Wikipedia) The Dean Blundell Show was apparently very popular; it was on the air for the past thirteen years. Many listeners are dismayed at its cancellation. Ultimately, the decision to cancel the show rested with the owners of the radio station. In announcing their decision, this was the reason given: “The station will return to a more music-based format showcasing the best in modern rock. As a result, The Dean Blundell Show has been cancelled, effective January 6, 2014,” said Dave Farough, the General Manager of Corus Radio Toronto, which oversees the Blundell program. (as cited in CBC News Toronto) Continue reading

“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.” ― Benjamin Franklin

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The 2014 Rose Bowl Parade included a float “Love Is the Best Protection,” sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The reasoning behind the inclusion of the float, according to Ged Kenslea, Foundation President, is, “by showing the dream of lesbians and gay men fulfilled, the float is perfect with this year’s Rose Parade theme of ‘Dreams Come True.’” (as cited in Breitbart) The decision to include the float drew a mixed response. One impassioned response comes from a woman who was deeply offended. Angela Wingenroth offered the following comment:

“We don’t care what the states say about it — God is clear that this isn’t right and I will NOT have this SHOVED DOWN MY CHILDREN’S THROATS!! The intolerance is theirs. They will not accept peoples’ objections to their lifestyle — you HAVE to accept that it’s not just ok, but GOOD or you’re a bigot! If they want to get ‘married,’ that’s their choice, but my kids don’t need to see it.” (as cited in American Power)

I expect this is what she was told to think by her pastor and various anti-gay commentators about the fact that gay people are being granted full civil rights in US society. Still, I wonder who, if anyone, called this woman a bigot for feeling this way. Continue reading