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Mead, Washington, 1984

Michael Farris, controversial political figure whose conservative social movement advocacy included serving as the director of Washington State Moral Majority, attempted to ban the book, "The Learning Tree" from Mead, Washington schools, citing, among other objections, the book's alleged advocacy of atheism. On behalf of a Mead parent, Farris sued the school district for violating the First Amendment establishment clause, claiming that by assigning students to read this book, the school district was establishing Humanism as the school's official religion. A federal judge dismissed the case.

Defining Terms


"Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are "offensive," happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the (U. S.) government is unconstitutional" (ACLU, 2019).

The challenging and banning of books = censorship

The challenging and banning of books = censorship

The censorship, or attempted censorship, of books and other materials falls under four general categories.

Challenges (the most common in the US):

"A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others" (ALA, 2019). Thousands of books and other materials have been challenged in libraries and schools, too numerous to list here. Many people misapply the word "banned", using it to refer to books that are "challenged." Still, in the United States as a whole, challenges rarely lead to full bans.

Restricted access (less common in the US):

This is a compromise a school or library might offer in the face of aggressive efforts to ban a book. Restriction limits access to lessor or greater degrees: Least restrictive: The restricted book is held in storage but anyone can check it out if they ask for it specifically. Most restrictive: The student or patron must be of a minimum age in order to be able to check out a restricted book, or must be accompanied by a parent/guardian to check it out.. 

Banning (even less common in the US):

Banning is the most extreme result of an aggressive challenge. The book or other material is removed from a classroom or a library (or in some cases an entire country if its government challenges a book). Even though banning is still rare in the United States as a whole, it is significantly on the rise in some parts of the country. 

"Sanitized" or "treated"?

Censorship, however, is available in many different flavors!

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Except where otherwise noted, the content in these guides by Tacoma Community College Library is licensed under CC BY SA 4.0.
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