Associated press (re-print)
A free-speech advocacy group accused the religious right yesterday of
waging a national censorship campaign in public schools and said it
found 347 attempts last year to censor books, plays and other materials
used by school children.
The report documented attempts at censorship in 44 states and in every
region of the country, "paints a picture of public education under
siege," said Arthur J. Kropp, president of People for the American Way,
a liberal civil liberties group.
The group released the findings at a news conference where its officials
accused conservative religious organizations of waging an aggressive
campaign to ban books, newspaper articles, plays and other material in
schools when they consider them contrary to their religious practices or
"The sheer numbers in this report are disturbing," said Deanna Duby, the
group's deputy legal director and a former school teacher.
The report listed 347 attempts - mostly by parents of school children -
to censor books, plays and other material in the 1992-93 school year.
The targets ranged from material used in so-called "self-esteem"
learning programs, to plays and classics such as "Sleeping Beauty," "Tom
Sawyer," and "The Catcher and the Rye."
Although complaints usually were raised by individual parents, the
report said the religious right appears directly or indirectly to be
involved in nearly 40 percent of the cases. About 7 percent were
attributed to complaints from parents of liberal ideology and typically
involved alleged racism in certain books.
"Religious right groups are far and away the single largest political
force promoting censorship in the schools," said Matthew Freeman,
research director for People for the American Way.
Martin Mawyer, president of Christian Action Network, denied that there
is any _secret_ national campaign and said the cases cited by the liberal
advocacy group reflect concerns by individual parents.
"These parents don't want to send their children to schools which
promote [sic] homosexuality, attack religious beliefs, use explicit sex
education materials and delve into the psyches of their children," said
Robert Simonds, who heads Citizens for Excellence in Education, said his
cult provides informational material "to parents that don't have the
time to do the research" but is not trying to wage a national campaign
"We're trying to give people the facts, not religious jargon," Simonds
said in a telephone interview. Simonds' group was singled out by the
In nearly half of the cases cited by People for the American Way, the
attempts at censorship stemmed from either sexual content or
objectionable language. A third of the complaints involved concerns
based on religion, often complaints that the book included references to
Satanism or Witchcraft, the report said.
By comparisons, the group found 346 censorship attempts in schools in
the 1991-92 year, 264 in the 1990-91 school year, 244 in the 1989-90 and
172 in the 1988-89.
Of the 347 cases, nearly half involved books in school libraries and an
additional 31 percent involved books specifically assigned in the
classroom. About 11 percent of the total - 37 cases - concerned
challenges to so-called "self-esteem" educational programs.
Some of the books and plays parents complained of during the 1992-93
school year in libraries and classrooms, according to People for the
"Where's Waldo?" - for depicting a woman's bare breast.
"The Catcher and the Rye" - for immorality and profanity.
"The Color Purple" - for profanity and sexually explicit language.
"Dracula" - for promoting [sic] Satanism.
"Lord of the Flies" - for sexual references.
"Of Mice and Men" - for profanity.
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" - for profanity.
"Little House on the Prairie" - for way it depicts "people of color."
"Tom Sawyer" - for terms that belittle "people of color."
"Sleeping Beauty" - for violence and being frightening.