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In the Constitution of the United States, the First Amendment, which serves as the foundation for our nation’s corresponding and subsequent laws and guarantees for all Americans, reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Unlike many other nations, when the United States of America was formed, the Founding Fathers, well aware of the limitations placed upon them while under the thumb of England, realized how vital it would be to their new country’s development and future, that freedom of speech and of the press served as an essential right to which all of its citizens were entitled and guaranteed. 

Nonetheless, we see a wave of efforts in close to 30 states, to impinge upon the right of free speech by banning over 1,500 books from our youth who attend public schools. Most of the books that have been banned include characters who are either minorities or LGBTQ or present themes that include such individuals or lifestyles. 

Of course, censorship in its various form and manipulations is nothing new in America – certainly not new in other less forward-thinking and democratically-minded countries like China, North Korea and many countries in South America or Africa. But America has always professed to be different from all the rest – that special and unique “experiment” on the Hill that welcomes anyone and everyone. We have always claimed to be a melting pot where diversity is both acknowledged and supported. 

But with the recent surge of book banning it’s clear that our rhetoric does not match our actions. 

Further, it should be noted that efforts to ban books have been initiated by those on both sides of the aisle – both liberals and conservatives and both Blacks and whites. 

Truth be told, while many parents and legislators alike say they’re only trying to “protect our children,” it’s difficult for us to ascertain from what these children are being protected – or from whom they need to be protected. 

Given the availability of and ease with which youth can now access information because of social media and other related technological advances, it seems that if we really want to protect our children, we should arm them with as much knowledge and unbiased information about the world, their country and the many different kinds of people who inhabit this nation as possible. That way, they can become more astute in observing the world in which they live and can then draw their own conclusions and form their own opinions. 

But instead, a growing number of adults have chosen to politicize this latest form of censorship – the banning of books – for their own purposes. 

We disagree with such initiatives and encourage those who have a voice to raise them, or a pen to use to write a letter and/or a computer on which they can compose an email to contact their leaders in Congress and local school board officials, to challenge this latest form of censorship. 

Our children will one day become adults who will replace us and become tomorrow’s men and women as the next generation of leaders and voices of reason and justice in America. They must be prepared to engage in critical thinking and competent in resolving conflicts and societal problems without the shackles of prejudice, bigotry or small-mindedness with which past generations have burdened them. 

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