Censorship Hub




Singapore Bans Two Children's Books With Gay Characters

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Singapore libraries have withdrawn two children's books with gay characters, reports NPR.

In a Facebook statement, The National Library Board suggests that the subject matter of the banned books is incompatible with a “pro-family” stance:

"Young children are among our libraries’ most frequent visitors. Many of them browse books in our children’s sections on their own. As such, NLB takes a pro-family and cautious approach in identifying titles for our young visitors. In selecting children’s books, we sieve through the contents and exercise our best judgement. Parents can be assured that NLB is sensitive to their concerns and views, and their feedback."

The two banned books are And Tango Makes Three, inspired by two real male penguins who hatched an egg together, and The White Swan Express, about three straight couples and one lesbian couple who travel to China to adopt baby girls.

Homosexuality in Singapore is criminalized with two years in prison

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Christian College Confiscates School Newspaper with Gay Student's Article: 'Why I Must Live in Fear'

Ventriloquist

Cedarville University in Ohio has undergone substantial administrative changes within the past year, including a new President for Student Life and Christian Ministries as well as no longer allowing male students to be taught Bible classes by female professors.

Cedarville UniversityThe newest development is the abolishment of the latest edition of the student newspaper The Ventriloquist after it ran some pro-LGBT articles, one from a student writing about being dismissed from a variety of student leadership positions and another from an anonymous student asking why he must live in fear at the school.

The newspapers were confiscated before they could be passed out, and the university’s Executive Director of Public Relations, Mark Weinstein offered up the excuse, "Our school has policies for soliciting and [students] need permission to distribute. It was checked and [The Ventriloquist] did not have permission.” The Ventriloquist has been distributed since 2010 without any problems and no changes regarding student publications have been made to the student handbook since that time.

You can read a digital copy of The Ventriloquist with the LGBT articles below

 

UPDATE: Cedarville University's LGBT Alliance Cedarville OUT released a statement condemning the crackdown:

CEDARVILLE, OH, April 29, 2014 – The new administration at Cedarville University, a Baptist-affiliated school in southwestern Ohio, has placed new restrictions on free speech activities on campus by forcibly confiscating copies of the independently-produced student paper, The Ventriloquist. Much of the crackdown by university administrators revolves around the paper’s discussions of LGBT issues and the reality of LGBT students’ lives on Cedarville’s campus. The acts of aggression continue to mount, leaving many students fearing for their safety.

Over the past year, several students have felt forced into leaving Cedarville because of their sexual orientation. Others have felt silenced as the university censures those who offer even a modicum of support to LGBT students. Most recently, copies of The Ventriloquist were torn from the hands of students attempting to distribute it around campus by none other than the University President.

Avery Redic told his powerful story of his time at Cedarville in an issue of The Ventriloquist before he felt forced to transfer. Another anonymous student wrote, in reference to Redic: “I’m in danger. When the university administration chooses to strip a gay student of all his leadership and ministry positions (and he ends up at Wright State) because he’s not sure what he believes on the issue, that’s a problem. It means that for the rest of my time at Cedarville, my status is on the line. I have to live in fear of my own ‘Christian’ community and what they might do to me.”

“The reality of LGBT students at Cedarville cannot be ignored,” says Grant Miller, Cedarville OUT member and former student body president. “It is a travesty that staff at Cedarville are allowing these unchecked aggressions to take place, creating a climate of fear.”

If, as Mark D. Weinstein, Cedarville’s Executive Director of Public Relations, asserts, Cedarville University, “supports free thinking and discussions on topics," Cedarville OUT demands that the papers be returned and that LGBT students be offered a safe space to talk about their lives. Cedarville OUT maintains a presence online where current students, alumni and supporters can read stories and share experiences as LGBT individuals and allies authentically living life against the backdrop of religious confusion, misunderstanding, and aggression—but also with the hope and the exhilarating freedom that comes with authenticity.


Internet Surveillance, Entrapment And Censorship On The Rise In Middle East

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently released an article stating that the digital surveillance and entrapment of LGBT-identified people is in the rise in the Arab world. The EFF also said that more websites are being blocked or censored to clamp down on LGBT speech.

SaudiarabiaThe EFF’s April Glaser and Jillian York state:

“Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country utilizing these tactics. In the United Arab Emirates, where male homosexuality is punishable by death, men have been detained for looking for sex partners in chat rooms (presumably ensnared by covert police officers). And in neighboring Iran, a massive Internet entrapment campaign a few years ago put dozens of men in jail, many of whom were subject to public torture.

State censorship of sexual content abounds online, and LGBTQ content in particular is frequently a target. Support and health websites, and LGBTQ publications are regularly shut down or become inactive… Other countries are known to filter LGBTQ sites nationwide, and U.S. search engine companies have been complicit. Microsoft's Bing service has been found to censor gay and lesbian sites in Arabic countries.”

The article says that the police are increasingly entrapping men through chat and hook-up sites like Hornet, U4Bear, and WhosHere. As a result, many LGBT-identified people are likely self-censoring because a search for online moral support or partnership can jeopardize their job prospects, social reputation, physical well-being and families’ safety.

The EFF has released an in-depth digital security guide for Arabian LGBT people as well as a multi-lingual site to help people avoid institutional persecution for online self-expression.

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Virginia School Committee Votes Unanimously To Keep 'Two Boys Kissing' On Shelves

After a public hearing following a parent’s request to remove David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing from the Fauquier High School library in Virginia, a review committee voted unanimously to keep the book on school shelves.

Two_boysFauquier.com has more:

A large crowd upwards of fifty people gathered in the Falcon Room at FHS. About 24 people gave their opinions on the matter and about six letters were read from those who couldn’t attend the meeting, including one from the author of the book, David Levithan. The comments made at the hearing showed an even split in opinion…

FHS parent Jessica Wilson made an official complaint to remove the book from the school library on Feb. 7, because she believed that the cover of the book condoned public displays of affection, which are against school policy…

Marie Miller, a teacher at FHS and the advisor for the school publication The Falconer said… “If the focus of this book was on heterosexual teen relationships, it would not be the subject of a book challenge…

The committee included Judy Olson, a parent of an FHS student, Lauren Milburn, an administrator at Liberty High School, Emmett Bales, a teacher at FHS, Kim Ritter, a librarian at Kettle Run High School, Weiher and chaired by Fauquier County Public Library Director Marie Del Rosso.

While other parents said that the book’s repeated use of “the f-word” would make it an R-rated movie inaccessible to most high school age teens, a  LGBT-identified graduate from Fauquier’s public schools attested that books like Two Boys Kissing and The Perks of Being a Wallflower helped him feel less alone and more comfortable with his identity.

Levithan’s book (which we reviewed) was nominated for a 2013 The National Book Awards in Young People's Lit. The parent who lodged the initial complaint may still appeal the committee’s decision to the school board if she so chooses.


Virginia School District to Hold Public Hearing on Parent's Request To Pull 'Two Boys Kissing' from Library

A parent's request to remove David Levithan's novel Two Boys Kissing from a high school library has prompted a public hearing in a Virginia school district, Fauquier.com reports:

Two-boys-kissingFauquier County Public Schools has received a request from a parent to withdraw from student use the book “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan which is a part of the high schools’ library collections. A school committee at Fauquier High School decided to retain the book in its library collection, and the parent is appealing the decision to the superintendent.

In accordance with Policy 6-5.7, the associate superintendent is forming a review committee. On Wednesday, April 23 in the conference room of the school board office, the committee will consider the complainant’s request. From 1:30-3 p.m. the committee will interview the complainant and possibly others related to the decision to withdraw or retain the book. From 3-4 p.m. the committee will hold a public hearing during which time interested citizens may speak to the review committee concerning the subject. The committee will discuss its findings and render a decision on the same date. All proceedings on April 23 are open to the public.

Here's part of what our book critic Garth Greenwell said about the novel, which he called "ambitious, humane, [and] extraordinarily moving":

The wonder of Two Boys Kissing is that it seems entirely adequate to the world in which young gay people live today. It’s a world in which one boy can be embraced, even celebrated by his family, while his boyfriend is terrified of being found out by his parents. It’s a world in which young people can attend a gay prom and fall headily in love, and then find themselves confronting violence on their second date. And, most painfully, both for the reader and for the chorus of lost elders who speak to us, it’s a world in which gay young people still feel driven to commit violent acts against themselves.

But Levithan’s novel doesn’t just feel adequate to our present; it also—and, in my reading of LGBT literature for young people, uniquely—feels adequate to our past. Maybe Levithan’s most poignant theme is the relationship between young gay people and the generation that preceded them, a generation given voice to by the grieving, exulting, longing ghost chorus that speaks to us on every page.


Nebraska Student Poetry Champ Told He Can't Read Gay and Trans-Themed Poem on Public Television

Michael Barth, a student poet from Gordon-Rushville High School in Nebraska who won the Class C1 poetry division at the Nebraska School Activities Association with a poem that combined lyrics from Macklemore’s "Same Love" and a slam poem called "Swingset" by Andrea Gibson, has been asked to perform a different poem for an NET Television program because the NSAA says it does not want an LGBT agenda promoted, the Lincoln Journal Star reports:

BlanfordgreenThe request from NSAA has caused a firestorm in the high school speech community, which says it amounts to censorship. They have created a Facebook page called “Support Michael and Acceptance of Speech,” made numerous calls to NSAA officials to protest the request and alerted the news media.

NSAA Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green (pictured) said she decided to ask Barth to perform a different piece for the NET program because she doesn’t want the program to be seen as promoting an individualized agenda.

The NET show "Best of the Best" features winning performances from the state championship (but apparently not if they mention gay or gender identity themes).

NET Television is Nebraska's PBS and NPR affiliate.

Bridgeport speech coach Glen Lussetto, who describes himself to the paper as "about as conservative as they come in this speech community" said he speech does not contain profanity and promotes acceptance.

"Same Love" is, of course, the hit marriage equality anthem, and, "'Swingset' by Andrea Gibson is about a lesbian kindergarten teacher whose students wonder if she is male or female," according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Blanford-Green added:

“I don’t want the speech platform to be seen as pushing an individualized agenda. If we have the opportunity to promote speech in a positive light that doesn’t create controversy or debate about students, content, the activity of the NSAA – that drove my decision.”

Barth told the HuffPost:

"I was contacted on Sunday that I was selected for the Best of the Best showcase ... and we had to send them a physical copy of my speech. And they read through it and they declined it because the executive director of the NSAA believes that it was advocating transgender rights and that demographic of people. The real controversy is how they're seeing that in the poetry. My poetry program is not advocating gay rights or straight rights or transgender rights or anything like that. It's about love and accepting each other."

Students and supporters of Barth have created a Facebook support page which has 426 members and growing.

Here is Barth's poem.

UPDATE: Barth WILL be able to read his poem.

Via NET's Facebook page:

An NSAA decision to ask a Rushville, Nebraska student to change the poem he read during the state championships for a subsequent NET television broadcast has caused a storm of controversy. Michael Barth won the Class C-1 state award for his presentation of the poem with a gender identity theme. He was scheduled to perform it for the Best of the Best broadcast with other state champions before the NSAA asked him to choose another selection because they considered the original poem too controversial for a statewide audience.

David Feingold, NET's assistant general manager of content, says NET is prepared to broadcast whichever selection Barth chooses to perform during the taping of the program Thursday. 

“Michael Barth is this year’s NSAA Class C1 poetry champion. NET Television is ready to record Michael’s award winning presentation, as originally planned. When Michael comes to the studio tomorrow, we’ll record the performance of his choosing, and will be included in the completed Best of the Best program which will air on NET 1 on Sunday, April 20th, at 9:00 a.m. and rebroadcast on NET 2. The full program will also be available on line,” Feingold said.

NET News will interview NET General Manager Mark Leonard on the controversy at 4:30 pm CT on NET Radio this afternoon.

UPDATE II: Here's an interview with Barth.


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