Nonetheless, Joe Gordon, sentenced to two and a half years in a Thai prison for translating a banned biography about Thailand’s king and then posting the content online, was freed by royal pardon two weeks ago according to officials at the U.S. Embassy.
Gordon was visiting his native country to seek treatment for arthritis and high blood pressure at the time of his arrest and was convicted in December for translating “The King Never Smiles” from English into Thai.
No reason was given for the pardon, but U.S. officials had been pressing Thai authorities to release the Thai-born American since he was first arrested in May 2011.
Gordon posted links to the banned biography of the king several years ago while living in Colorado, and his case has raised questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand.
The sad and shocking truth is that the affront to freedom of expression isn’t any better here in the supposed “land of the free and home of the brave.”
Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, in summary judgment for Texas vs. Johnson, said, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
Anyone is free to publically express their opinion on whatever topic they wish to address, but by the same token others are free to offer that person a public rebuttal; that doesn’t mean that they have a right to ban those ideas from being expressed simply because they don’t like what they hear. Let’s face it, they have a right to say it, but that doesn’t mean you’re forced to listen to it. Turn the channel, walk on by, or flip the page.
There has been a growing trend that seeks to undermine the very core of the First Amendment. In schools and communities across the nation individuals, and sometimes organized groups, are exercising their rights in an effort to refuse others to do the same. It is a twisted, politically-motivated war plan that slowly eats away at the Constitution that we as a nation claim to hold so dear.
The list of books and works that have been covered in this series are about as diverse as the reasons for their challenges. Here are a few of the latest incidents, that you may or may not be aware of, that have attempted to take away your freedoms. The reason that you might not have heard about them, at least according to the American Library Association, is due to the sobering fact that some 85 percent of these challenges receive no media attention at all. That means that these self-appointed “morality censors” work from the shadows rather than address their concerns in the well-lit halls of reason.
Teachers tell us to always do our homework and to thoroughly research our assigned topics, but it would appear that those scholarly rules don’t apply to the Texas State Board of Education.
In January the children’s book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See,” by Bill Martin, was ordered removed from schools because board member Pat Hardy didn’t bother to research his decision when he confused the author with an obscure Marxist theorist of the same name.
Research by the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism shows how efforts to restrict Missouri students’ access to certain books have met with mixed results according to more than 560 public records requests to compile the data.
Restrictions, and sometimes the actual removal, of material from libraries have been considered on upwards of 50 books in 32 Missouri school districts since 2008 including Kurt Vonnegut’s classic, “Slaughterhouse-Five;” In the Jackson school district, a parent unsuccessfully sought a ban on modern blockbuster “The Hunger Games;” and in Camdenton, “The Kite Runner” was removed as required reading in an honors English class but remained on the school’s library shelves. Of the 53 documented challenges, 12 actually led to the books being completely removed and 11 had restrictions placed on them.
A parent recently complained to the Greensboro, North Carolina Public Library about a book titled, “Dick and Jane and Vampires.” The parent thought it was too scary to be in the children’s section; however, a Greensboro Public Library committee disagreed.
Collection Manager Tim Cole said, “The library is committed to intellectual freedom and freedom of access. That’s what we’re all about. But, we, none the less, have a process in place where folks can challenge materials.”
Public schools have similar policies. Guilford County Schools told WFMY News 2 that parents can and do challenge books. In the past five years, parents have challenged two books: “Hoops” because they felt it contained racism and “The House of Spirits” over supposedly inappropriate sexual content.
In Guilford County Schools, a committee of parents, teachers, administrators, and students review complaints. Next, it moves on to the district level. The school board has the final decision.
In the past twenty years, only one book has been challenged all the way to school board: “Old Gringo.” District staff said they could not recall the specific objections to that book but, the board ultimately decided to keep the book in the schools.
All of these incidents become rather ironic when we consider the historical truth that many of the groups that settled this land did so to escape religious or social persecution and to live freely as they saw fit, but now we have devolved into a society that uses religion and personal points of view to persecute and imprison freedom itself.