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ACLU Names Arts Censors of the Year;
Awardees Span the Political Spectrum
Embargoed For RELEASE
until September 26, 1993
NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today named the 1993
Arts Censors of the Year, a dubious award bestowed upon those who have
shown exceptional disregard for the First Amendment. The ACLU's Arts
Censorship Project designates the awardees each year to illustrate the
different ways that censorship occurs and to spotlight dramatic instances
in which groups or individuals have threatened to suppress speech and
expression not in accord with their own views.
The ACLU announced its second-annual awards today in observance of
Banned Books Week, when Americans are reminded of the strains of
intolerance and repression that continue to haunt our society.
This year's Arts Censors span the political spectrum but share an
intolerance for expression they consider offensive. They range from
longtime arts foe Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) to the student editors of a
feminist law journal in Michigan. They include government bodies like the
Federal Communications Commission, which has attempted to silence radio
personality Howard Stern, a school district that confiscated books and
another that stopped the production of a student mural on the theme of the
First Amendment. They include far-right political advocacy organizations
in Oregon and Tennessee that have appointed themselves guardians of public
"Censorship takes many forms and guises," said Marjorie Heins,
Director of the ACLU's national Arts Censorship Project. "The people and
groups we've named today share an impulse to stifle those they disagree
with and to impose their own moral, ideological or religious views on
A number of this year's censors are public officials or elected
boards that have used the weight and authority of their offices to wage
campaigns against artists, authors, students and musicians over the course
of the past year. Two of the Arts Censors are private pressure groups that
have advocated censorship through tactics ranging from electoral campaigns
to lawless theft of books from public libraries.
"While the ACLU emphatically supports the First Amendment right to
advocate on behalf of one's beliefs, we also vehemently oppose efforts to
deprive other Americans of their right to see, hear and express their own
opinions," said Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the ACLU.
Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has fought for freedom of
expression and against all forms of censorship. The ACLU's Arts Censorship
Project provides legal assistance to artists and arts organizations whose
rights are threatened. The project also conducts educational efforts to
assure the rights of Americans to read, hear, or view expressions of their
The ACLU's 1993 Arts Censors of the Year are:
GOVERNMENT ARTS CENSORS
THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, which has greatly expanded its
role as the federal government's only official censor by intimidating
radio stations with unprecedented fines against such popular entertainers
as Howard Stern for transgressions of ill-defined standards of "decency."
SENATOR JESSE HELMS, whose latest sally in a longstanding war on free
speech was his sponsorship of the new 1992 cable TV censorship law.
Senator Helms needs little introduction; his is the name most frequently
associated with congressional attacks on the National Endowment for the
Arts. He has come to symbolize the far right's campaign to limit personal
freedoms in the name of imposing a single moral standard on Americans.
THE STUDENT EDITORIAL BOARD OF THE MICHIGAN JOURNAL OF GENDER AND LAW,
for demonstrating the dangers of censorship in the name of feminism by
dismantling an art exhibit curated by a woman and consisting of art mostly
by women, on the grounds that one video contained "pornography." We
include them among the government censors because of the university's
sponsorship of the conference and their contracting for the exhibit on
behalf of the university.
RIB LAKE SCHOOL DISTRICT, WISCONSIN, where an irate principal confiscated
a student's copy of Judy Blume's novel Forever, a tale of teen love, then
proceeded to hold closed school board meetings to discuss the removal of
the book from the school.
THE CITY OF SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA, which canceled heavy-metal band
Society of the Damned's concert in a city park after reading promotional
fliers warning, "If you are afraid of the free exchange of ideas, stay
ELK GROVE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, CALIF., where a student mural
depicting a burning flag and quoting the First Amendment was censored by
MAYOR TOM FINK, ANCHORAGE, ALASKA, who has used his power to crusade
against the arts in Anchorage by attacking works that violated his
political ideology and trying to force content restrictions on arts
MERIDIAN SCHOOL DISTRICT, IDAHO, which has censored everything from
student newspapers to class speakers to a song about recycling.
PRIVATE ARTS CENSORS
THE OREGON CITIZENS ALLIANCE, moving force behind last year's infamous
Ballot Measure 9 and sponsor of similar measures in Oregon municipalities
this year -- measures that would deprive citizens of their rights to
gather in public places to discuss gay rights and would restrict access to
books, magazines, and films that discuss homosexuality in terms other than
CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA, EAST TENNESSEE CHAPTER, whose member Kathy
Hollifield held hostage 18 books primarily dealing with sex education for
teens, refusing to return them to the local library.
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