Censorship Talk at the Forum for Provocative Issues

Nazi book burning
Book burning in Nazi Germany. Click on image for description at “The History Place.”

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution seems very straightforward when it says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” That means in this country, we won’t be subjected to things like the book burnings of Hitler’s Germany or the death sentence imposed on Salman Rushdie (author of The Satanic Verses) in a fatwa by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Censorship and book banning is not so straightforward, however.

On June 11, I will be talking at the Red Lodge, Montana Forum for Provocative Issues about the ethics, morality, legality, and reality of book banning in the United States. I’ve been compiling real-world examples, and I’d love to get additional examples and feedback from my readers about the subject as I prepare for this talk. The subjects I’ll be covering include:

  • What types of books the Federal Government can actually ban
  • What other government entities can and cannot ban books
  • Book burning in the United States (more recently than you think!)
  • Books that have been banned or challenged in Montana
  • How book banning affects authors and publishers
  • The process of banning a book
  • Banned Book Week and the ALA/ABA fight for the freedom to read

I will bring backup materials for attendees to peruse after the talk, including lists of banned and challenged books.


  1. Book banning continues into the 21st Century. Aura, early novel by Carlos Fuentes, was published in 1962 and became accepted reading for teens in Mexico schools. In 2001 Carlos Abascal, Minister of the Interior, demanded that Aura be banned and his daughter be given an alternate book to read. The resulting scandal led to dismissal of the teacher who assigned the book. In 2009 Puerto Rico’s Dept. of Education banned the book from the curricula…

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