Book Banning: Past and Present
In celebration of Banned Books Week, the Lewes Public Library, ACLU of Delaware, Groome Church, and Browseabout Books offer the following presentation and discussion, available to attend in-person or online.
“There is more than one way to burn a book,” Ray Bradbury once said. “And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.” Justice Potter Stewart wrote in 1965, “Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” The wisdom of such esteemed writers and jurists has not, however, prevented a new generation of censors from banning books in libraries, schools, and even publishing houses.
How far can the government -- federal, state, local, or library -- go when it comes to banning books it deems objectionable? How much censorial latitude can the government have in suppressing books on science, literature, religion, race, gender, and history? In today’s culture wars, too often the answer depends on which books offend which group. One group seeks to ban books that teach racial history in critical ways while another group seeks to ban books that are not “politically correct.”
Book censorship is not, of course, limited to the realm of the government and First Amendment law. Some books, for example, are not published simply because of an author’s race. Other books are censored by in-house “sensitivity readers.” As with government censorship, the common factor is often a desire to promote one’s view of life and suppress all opposing views. In other words, in the censor’s mind freedom of expression is one-directional -- “one’s way or no way.”
To discuss such past and present issues, two noted free speech scholars will join in spirited and informed conversation. Ronald Collins is a retired law professor and the Lewes Public Library’s Distinguished Lecturer. He is the author or co-author of twelve books including We Must Not be Afraid to be Free and Robotica: Free Speech and Artificial Intelligence. He is the editor of a weekly blog titled “First Amendment News” and the co-director of The First Amendment Salons. Collins is also the co-chair of the History Book Festival. Robert Corn-Revere has practiced First Amendment law for four decades, and currently is Chief Counsel at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. He writes and speaks frequently on free speech issues, and his latest book is The Mind of the Censor and the Eye of the Beholder—The First Amendment and the Censor’s Dilemma.
Registration is required.