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CENSORSHIP AND THE ARTS No. 115

Adopted 1995
Amended 1996
Reaffirmed 1997
Amended 1998
Amended 1999
Reaffirmed 2001
Amended 2003
Reaffirmed 2004
Amended 2005
 

Liberty of thought and conscience and freedom to express the ideas to which they give rise are the foundations upon which American democracy rests.

Right-wing Members of Congress have attacked the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for making grants to support "blasphemous" or "sexually offensive" art. These Members have also attacked the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) alleging "liberal bias" in programming, the sexual content of programs and even for Sesame Street. Under the guise of "cutting the budget," Congress has sought to eliminate the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and drastically gut support for the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR).

This apparently reflects a lopsided choice of priorities in the Republican-controlled Congress, which seems to consider culture an unnecessary frill, while simultaneously seeing to silence independent voices.

Further, right-wing groups such as Focus on the Family, the American Family Association and Citizens for Excellence in Education have tried to ban from school libraries and curricula scores of books selected by professional librarians and educators. These include some award-winning works. Recently, they have mounted major campaigns against books - and teachers who use them - "for encouraging a homosexual life-style." Books attacked in this way have included Mary Renault's Last of the Wine, Meredith Tax's Families and Leslea Newman's Heather has Two Mommies. In more than one state, some legislators have proposed legislation to ban books and plays with homosexual characters, including such works as Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Tony Kushner's Angels in America, and Alice Walker's The Color Purple. In addition to such attacks on freedom of expression, right-wing groups have claimed that books, such as the Harry Potter series, promote "witchcraft."

ADA deplores attempts to censor fiction.

ADA reaffirms our First Amendment right to read, to listen, to hear, to speak, and to create. Free expression is the foundation of a democratic society. We abhor right-wing efforts to destroy the independence of institutions such as the CPB, and networks such as PBS and NPR. We believe that schools should stimulate critical thinking, rather than serve as tools for ideological indoctrination, and we believe that efforts to ban books and plays undermine the core values of our democracy.

ADA calls upon Congress, first, to stand firm in protection of the First Amendment of the Constitution against hysteria and right wing pressure to destroy our artistic community, and second, to provide adequate funds for enhancing the quality of life through institutions such as the NEA and NEH.

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No. 115
Social and Domestic Policy Commission

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