Mar 2, 2007
The book banning and censorship saga by the anti-gay hate group known as the “LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) continues to get more bizarre everyday and reinforce Howell’s reputation as a racist and small-minded community around the country.
Free speech and literary groups across the country are lining up to condemn not only the so-called “love’s” censorship attempt, but they are also criticizing federal, state and local prosecutors for even considering this group’s ridiculous claims.
The so-called “love” group has been waging a losing book banning battle for the past four months against “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them,” Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," an acclaimed memoir written by Richard Wright in 1945, "Black Boy " and the classic Kurt Vonnegut novel "Slaughterhouse Five.” The group falsely claims they are pornographic.
After asking Howell Public Schools to review the decision to include the books in their advanced English curriculum for juniors, the school board upheld the decision by three separate committees and two administrators.
The leader of the so-called “love” group and the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans, Vicki Fyke, was not satisfied, and she sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse claiming the books in question violate child pornography laws and further makes the ridiculous claim that the books' presence in high school classrooms violates the law by disseminating sexually explicit material to minors.
Surprisingly, they have not laughed in her face, and they are actually considering it. In fact, the federal prosecutor actually turned the matter over to the FBI.
The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus has done an excellent job of covering this story, and today the newspaper quoted Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, who took the federal prosecutor to task in a letter signed by a number of free speech and literary groups for taking the uncalled for step of investigating the claim.
"It is absolutely bizarre that a high official in the Justice Department would take such a step," she said. "Under the law, the books cannot be found obscene if they have literary merit, which in this case cannot be reasonably questioned."
In order to be legally defined as pornography, a book must be found to appeal only to readers' prurient interest in sex, and have no literary or educational value. But all of these books have won numerous prizes, awards and praise from many, many literary groups, and that automatically meets the definition of having “literary merit.” In fact, Toni Morrison’s work has won her the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize.
Chris Finan, President of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, also signed the letter, and he joined in the criticism of the Republican federal prosecutor.
"We are told that Murphy 'routinely' refers all obscenity complaints to the FBI. But he has a duty to reject frivolous claims to ensure that there is no chilling effect on books that are protected by the First Amendment," Finan said. "This is not the kind of judgment we expect from a man who has been nominated for a seat on one of our highest courts."
Murphy is up for a seat on the Cincinnati-based Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, having been nominated by President George W. Bush in June. He was named to his current position by Bush as well, and has been active in Republican politics.
(Livingston) County prosecutor David Morse also has responded to Fyke's allegation by doing his own investigation. He said he hopes to make a decision by Monday.
He objected to the characterization of Murphy's move.
"I don't think it's bizarre. There is a felony offense of distributing sexually explicit material to a minor. The question is, do the facts constitute a violation of the law," Morse said. "I've got legal responsibilities."
I do. Clearly these books have literary merit, and the fact this was not dismissed immediately is truly bizarre. It’s nice to see he is reading these books, just like the entire community is, but he should have dismissed this right away. It makes you wonder. David Morse has not been challenged in the last two elections, so why does he have to play politics?
The ridiculous decision to have the FBI investigate books has caused the national media, as well as Detroit TV stations, to pick up on this ridiculous story.