Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Safe cracking

In a move that would make the Taliban smile, a group of Christian conservatives in Wisconsin is demanding that a young adult book be publicly burned. How long before they're calling for another Inquisition?

The book, Baby Be-Bop, by award-winning writer Francesca Lia Block, is about "a young man's discovery that he's gay," according to Salon.com. The Christian Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the West Bend Public Library, alleging that displaying the book has caused mental anguish to people.

The group that initiated this ridiculous imbroglio is called West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, which is the part that makes me angry. Libraries should not be, must not be, "safe" -- not in line with the usage of the word in this context: non-controversial; bleached of ideas; espousing only viewpoints in line with conservatives.

No! Libraries, books, words, ideas, art -- all of these things are dangerous. They threaten those in power; they make people think; they attack the status quo. That is the point. The concept of a "safe library" sounds like an Orwellian term. It's where the tortured citizenry goes to be reeducated in the beliefs of a totalitarian regime.

I don't want safe libraries, or safe books, or safe art. Freedom, justice, equality, compassion, tolerance and truth depend on unsafe ideas being spread as widely as possible.


Anonymous said...

Jimbo I could not agree with you more. Censorship, especially forced by narrow minded individuals who want to suppress viewpoints that do not coincide with their own;is against everything this country stands for.

N.starluna said...

I really hope that Wisconsin has a statute that requires the plaintiff to reimburse the defendant (in this case the town) for all expenses associated with the suit when it has been found to have filed a frivolous lawsuit.

Eric Bradley said...

To be fair, Protestants didn't call for the Inquisition, so asking when they'll call for another one isn't true.

The blame for that, alas, falls especially on the Catholic Church in Spain. I can see you smiling wide at that concession.

N.starluna said...

Eric - I think you should check your history. Protestants, at least those who subscribed to a more fundamentalist view of their faith, have never been immune to "inquisatorial" practices. Neither Luther nor Calvin were big believers in freedom of religion or freedom of speech. Both called for civil authorities to punish people for the "crime" of heresy.

There was plenty of protestant inquisition happening after the English Reformation which targeted those who continued to practice Catholic rituals. One of the most famous martyrs of this Anglican Inquisition was Margaret Clitherow who was crushed to death for "harboring Catholic priests."

The trial and banishment or punishment by death of Quakers by Puritan leaders of Massachusetts during the colonial period could also be considered an extension of such practices. Same can be said of some of the witch trials that took place throughout Europe and in colonial America.

In terms of using legal institutions for the persecution of those whose beliefs or practices offend religious dictates, there is plenty of blame to go around.

Eric Bradley said...

Hi Starluna,
Aside from my comment being a slight joke with Jim, I was referring to (as I thought he was) THE inquisition, not persecution in general. And that affair was not brought about by Protestants. If that's what he meant, then I'm right. But if Jim meant persecution in general, then it's my misunderstanding.

Now of course every single group of any political/religious persuasion has been guilty of persecuting others. It would be foolish to think otherwise. I wasn't trying to vindicate evangelical Protestantism, merely trying to be just by acquitting it of one charge it was not guilty of.

N.starluna said...

Apologies Eric. Even though I no longer practice the faith, I am sensitive to historical misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the failings of faith that are exclusively attributed to the Catholic Church. The assumption that term "the Inquisition" automatically refers to the Spanish, Medieval, or Papal Inquisitions may have been unintended. But this implicit association does bother me because it is part of a long standing, and incorrect, narrative that the Protestant faiths somehow behaved better or are better than the Catholic Church, when history shows that all faiths have been used (or rather abused) to promote intolerance and to spread hate, as the CCLU does.