Sunday, January 10, 2016

Nothing ‘fun’ about censorship

In Austin, Texas, the First Unitarian Universalist Church offered the ability to ban a hymn, for one year, from its services, as an auction item. The winning bidder chose to ban a hymn titled, “Bring Many Names.”

(In its write-up, UU World noted that “A few other UU congregations have also temporarily banned hymns, but some people would rather this idea didn’t spread too far.”)

In the “Church Times” Anglican newspaper, Rev. Meg Barnhouse (the Austin church’s senior minister) acknowledged that some people would rather have picked a favorite hymn, but she added that “Banning one is so much more fun.”

Would Rev. Barnhouse similarly exult in “being a little bit wicked” if members of her church instead chose to ban a book from the church library?

Every year, libraries face hundreds of challenges against materials in their collections and each year, the American Library Association compiles a “Top 10” list of the most frequently challenged books.

There is nothing humorous or cute about these challenges; they are attempts to suppress ideas that the challengers disagree with and represent a belief that the challenger has a right to decide for everyone else which ideas will be accessible.

The UU World write-up says Rev. Barnhouse “understands” opposition to banning hymns, but I urge her to give it deeper thought. I’m deeply uncomfortable with any characterization of banning — that is, censorship — as “fun.”

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