Freedom of speech cannot be limited without being lost


July 19, 1992|By Sharon Hornberger


It is not a religious issue. It is not a conservative issue. It is not a liberal issue. It is not a Republican issue. It is not a Democratic issue. It is a challenge to the Constitution and it is not to be taken lightly.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees each citizen the freedom of speech. This freedom extends to the printed word. No individual or group of individuals has the right to tell the rest of us what we can read or see.

Thomas Jefferson said of the First Amendment: "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."

The Carroll County library system is currently being challenged to remove a book from its shelves. The removal of a book from circulation is one of the strongest and most severe forms of censorship.

Every adult in the United States has the right to read or see what they want. Every parent has the right and the responsibility to control what their minor children read and see.

The difference between those two rights and responsibilities is what is in conflict in our county. If there is a book you find distasteful, don't read it. Tell your friends about it and alert them to avoid it or prohibit their children from reading it.

If they agree with your opinion, they won't read the book. If there is a film you find distasteful, don't spend your money on a ticket to see the film. Tell all of your friends to save their money and sensibilities and skip the film.

That is not censorship -- it's sharing a mutual opinion.

The freedom of speech, along with the other liberties guaranteed by our Constitution, is what makes our country great. These collective guaranteed freedoms are what have made people from other parts of the world leave their homes -- and sometimes their families -- to come to the United States.

These freedoms and rights are so precious that men and women have given their lives to protect these rights.

Don't get me wrong. I don't agree with every printed word protected by the First Amendment. I abhor pornography, and the thought that this trash and the scum that produces this garbage are protected by this same precious First Amendment right makes my blood boil. But then, what I call pornography another citizen may call "art."

Let's go back to Thomas Jefferson's remarks again: Free speech "cannot be limited without being lost."

We Carroll residents can't always agree with each other, but here in Carroll, as well as all over the United States, we have this right of freedom of choice -- what we see, what we read, what we buy, what we believe.

There have been challenges to the First Amendment in the past and there will continue to be challenges on the grounds that tax dollars should not be spent on something that offends the taxpayers.

But we always come back to the freedom of choice, the freedom to disagree, because what offends me may not offend you, and you may want that book or picture to be bought with public dollars for your use and pleasure.

What offends you may not offend me and my neighbors, and we want the ability to go to the library and borrow that book or film. The First Amendment cannot be limited -- with limits will come loss.

The bottom line is exercise your freedom of choice -- don't try to censor your neighbors' reading and visual materials.

As I see it, the Carroll County Public Library Board of Trustees and many citizens in this county are to be applauded for their strong and immediate response to this latest attempt at censorship and this challenge to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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