Do you like words?

As a reader of Rooster Magazine, I’m assuming you do.

That’s why I’m sure it is just as depressing to you as it is to me when you think about how many times the fundamental freedom we have to use various words without limit has been weaponized over the last few decades. In the 1980s, it was former second lady Tipper Gore and the Democrats attempting to censor heavy metal music. In the early-2000s we saw the attempted censoring of Eminem from both sides—leading to the FCC fining Colorado Springs Radio $7,000 in June of 2001 for playing the CLEAN version of “The Real Slim Shady.”

In each of the aforementioned cases, the censors stated that the reason they were taking these steps was in order to “save the children.” The other similarity to these attempts at censorship came in the fact that each backfired epically. The bands targeted by Tipper Gore and her friends saw a huge increase in sales. The same also happened to Eminem, helping to catapult him to “Rap God” status.

Though different censorship attempts have continued through to the modern day by different entities, there was one lesson learned by the new crop of censors from the historical fails above. Though “saving the children” as an excuse is perfectly viable, the focus of the updated efforts needed to be shifted to something more historically viable: book banning.

Even though book banning is incredibly unpopular—with a 2022 American Library Association (ALA) poll showing a large majority of voters (71%) opposing efforts to have books removed from their local public libraries—it seems this fact has fallen on deaf ears. In recent years the banning of books has exploded like wildfire as a means for the completely bi-partisan “loud-as-Hell minority” to try and silence those they don’t agree with.

More than 330 unique cases of book bans and challenges were reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom between September 1 and November 30, 2021. Challenge totals in 2021 more than doubled the number of reports from 2020 (156 challenges) and far outpaced 2019 challenge totals (377 challenges).

Also, PEN America’s latest report (released in April 2023), shows that between July 1 through December 30, 2022, America recorded 1,477 separate instances of book bans across the country. This includes 874 unique titles in 182 school districts and 37 states. Florida and Texas remain at the top of the list of states banning the most books, followed closely by South Carolina, Missouri, and Utah.

And speaking of Utah …

I believe this state holds the greatest examples of what this punch-counter-punch style of combat looks like when it comes to using book bans as fodder to further an agenda. This came in the form of their recent banning/unbanning of the Bible in the Davis County School District.

In 2022, the Utah government passed a law aimed at banning “pornographic or indecent” books from schools. The law was intended to limit children’s access to pro-LGBTQ materials … but someone found a loophole.

Because any parent can register a complaint to have a book removed, someone opted to go after one of the state’s sacred texts: the Bible. A copy of the complaint obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through a public records request shows that the parent noted the Bible contains instances of incest, prostitution, and rape.

The 72,000-student school district north of Salt Lake City removed the Bible from its elementary and middle schools while keeping it in high schools after a committee reviewed the scripture.

Because Utah is truly the “Bible Belt of the West,” the uproar was both swift and immediate.

Due to the backlash, it was announced by officials from the Davis School District that the sacred text was indeed age-appropriate for all district libraries, leading to the return of the book from everywhere it had been removed; this occurred only weeks after the ban went into effect.

But Utah isn’t the only place where the use of subjective morals as a means to measure what's appropriate for everyone is being attempted. However, when this thinly veiled attempt at censorship was tried here in Colorado, we shut that shit down immediately.

In late 2022, the Wellington Public Library held an open meeting. And though the subject of book banning was not on the meeting's agenda, multiple people asked for several books to either be banned or made less accessible at the library; one of those leading the charge was Christine Gaiter. Though she did not call for an outright ban, she asked the Board of Trustees to remove a list of 19 books from the shelves of the public library and put them where children would not be able to access them without permission from an adult.

"My issue is that these books go into too much graphic detail of a sexual act," she said. She then added, "The library is not being inclusive of my Christian ethics," she said. "There are Christians in this town that think like me. You don't have to agree with us, but I do ask that you respect us and include our views in your decision-making process."

The board listened and took the views of EVERY citizen of the community into account by effectively banning all book bans. They voted 5-2 to pass a resolution that the board cannot “censor, suppress, remove, monitor or place age restrictions on ideas or information in our public library.”

I completely agree with the Board of Trustees; I believe that everyone should have a voice—no matter how much I detest what they say. With that said, I know that not everyone shares this belief. I know that there is a large swath of people who are OK with certain forms of speech being limited because the speech they want to limit is morally reprehensible.

Though I understand this thought process, it’s incredibly flawed. This thought process is literally gambling with the entire moral core of half the nation with the odds being 50/50 at best.

Ever since Roe v. Wade, we’ve learned as a nation that the things we thought were enshrined in the American landscape of legality are not safe. That depending on who has the control, the interpretation of the constitution can be done in whatever way they want to make their agenda a reality. If you support the limiting of free speech, no matter what political leanings you have, you can see how this could go south.

If the current SCOTUS were to get a book-banning case centered around LGBTQ material being “pornographic,” and they were to rule that way in the majority, then it’s possible the voices of thousands of LGBTQ authors and millions of their readers will be silenced with the swipe of a pen. And having written about those horrors previously, I know how damaging that can be.

Conversely, let’s say you are a conservative that believes the Bible is the epicenter of morality, and a liberal judiciary takes over in 15 years. It would entirely be possible that the Bible could go through the same “moral litmus test” and be banned nationwide; much like we saw in Utah.

In either case, the complete moral core of an entire group of people would be silenced—something I feel is utterly antithetical to the “American way.”

I think that what happened in Wellington should become the standard nationwide. I’ve never viewed knowledge as being anything other than positive and have never been able to understand the fear that some people have when it comes to learning about opposing viewpoints.

I mean, if you learn enough of the intricacies found in your enemies’ thought processes, it’s much easier to crush them from within.