Saturday, March 1, 2014

Stop Senate Bill 401

No clever puns for this title, because the latest bit of rightwing stupidity isn't even worth joking about; it's about outright government censorship.  As reported by Under the Dome Today, Senate Bill 401 would enforce broad and ridiculous censorship to school arts education.

I've had the honor of my first novel, PINS being added to reading lists of more than a dozen college classes at universities across the U.S. including my BFA alma mater, Ohio State University. While my books may not be "appropriate" for high school classes, I would be astonished if anyone actively sought out to censor my works and keep them from potential readers. This is just another case of the 'American Taliban' wielding its unlawful interference on government.

I'll let the NEA post offer its clear address of this issue:

"Senate Bill 401 removes from public, private and parochial schools the defense of literary or artistic merit or significance when someone accuses the school of exposing students to "offensive" materials."

"If you think this only has to do with 'obscenity,' you are wrong. While the bill does address obscene materials, its provisions also apply if 'a reasonable person would find that the material or performance lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value for minors.' This language is so broad as to include almost anything. Could someone challenge Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry as lacking 'political value?'

"The second thing the bill does thanks to a committee amendment is to lower the standard under which an educator can be sent to court from 'knowingly' exposing a minor to such materials to 'recklessly.' Under current law, a person would have to know he/she was showing offensive materials. Under the amendment, if a teacher has an art history book on his/her desk and a student flips through it and sees a nude, the teacher can be accused of recklessly exposing the student to that image. A teacher who takes a field trip to the state capitol and suddenly notes the bare breasted woman in the artwork in the rotunda can be accused of recklessly exposing students to nudity.

"Think it's far-fetched? The lead proponent of this legislation is the American Family Association in Kansas which has been leading an effort to force the removal of a sculpture of a bare-breasted woman from a public arboretum in Johnson County, going so far as to successfully petition to impanel a grand jury on the issue."

The AFA, as many know, is one of the conniving forces behind nearly every anti-gay equality measure of the past several decades.

If this bill were to pass, it would provide more ammunition for anyone to petition to bring a teacher, librarian, or principal before a grand jury. This bill will be considered by the full Senate. We urge everyone to contact their state senator and ask that SB 401 be rejected.

Or, if you know your Senator, use this protocol for email:

As I complete work on my next novel, the Pennsylvania-based sequel to Every Time I Think of You, I consider the early 1980s life of Everett Forrester, one of the lead characters in that book, and his political goals as an astute out gay man, the sort of well-spoken (and handsome) politician like PA Rep. Brian Sims.

Despite the recent "success" in New Mexico where a ridiculous anti-gay bill was vetoed, more homophobic absurdities will rise up as we continue our struggle. The rabid prudes and bigots will never shut up as long as slimy politicians continue to do their bidding. Fortunately, we continue to elect people like Sims, who refuse to cower under their shrieks and tantrums.


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