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Stealth Censor Targets F-Bombs

swearAn unwanted copy editor has been digging through the stacks of The Maury County Public Library in Columbia, Tennessee. The local News Channel 5 reports that library staff has found over 50 books with profane language crossed out in blue ink. The targeted books are mostly fiction, many of them mystery novels, though the 9/11 Commission Report was also defaced. “It’s one word, in particular. It’s the ‘f’ word,” says Library Director Elizabeth Potts. But, catching the culprit will be very difficult. Due to a federal law that protects library patrons’ privacy, no records are kept to track the history of who borrowed a book. If caught, the offender could be charged with vandalism, or face more serious charges if they have caused more than $500 in damages. Though Potts isn’t planning to prosecute, she does want the illegal copy editing to stop. The stealth censor is violating Free Speech and altering the authors’ creative vision.

Libraries are often battle grounds for censorship, whether secretive or overt. A public library in Cheshire, Connecticut has recently met with public criticism over carrying In the Middle of the Night: The Shocking True Story of a Family Killed in Cold Blood by Brian McDonald, which details the real life murder of a local family in 2007. Some townspeople have demanded the book be pulled from the shelves, in order to protect the father of the family, who survived the attack. Alternatively, a Maryland school district was threatened with a lawsuit two years ago when it refused to accept handouts and books promoting controversial “conversion” therapies for gay teens. The conservative Christian group that produces the materials accused the district of censorship by excluding their titles from the public school libraries. Arguments for and against book censorship are often heated, as was the case in the examples above, but the deciding factor should always be Free Speech. Though we might personally disagree with an author’s point of view, language or subject matter, he or she has a Constitutional right to express an opinion. “It’s a book. If you don’t like what’s in it, shut it and bring it back,” explains Potts.

Read News Channel 5 Article

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