The Fayetteville Public Library is celebrating the freedom to read this week by hosting a daily bag lunch discussion of several books that have been banned in the past. Today it is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The schedule for the rest of the week is Tuesday, Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo; Wednesday, Ordinary People by Judith Guest; Thursday, The Giver by Lois Lowry; and Friday, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
Haven't yet heard any complaints from Laurie Masterson and the Teabaggers. Back before she was leading the local outcry against a new high school and everything Obama, even before she divorced her husband and married Mike Masterson, Laurie Taylor was the queen of book censorship hereabouts. During the summer of 2005, she submitted complaints against at least 54 books in the school libraries that she found objectionable but said she had a total of 70 "lewd and lascivious" books on her list that she wanted cloistered. These nasty books, she claimed, were "raw, unadulterated sex, biased sexual rhetoric and instructional sexual pandering to children."
At first, Laurie Taylor won a small victory. A required review committee (composed of a central office administrator, a building administrator, a media specialist, two classroom teachers, and two parents) held to the 1986 school policy that "It is the duty of the schools to provide a wide range of materials on all levels of difficulty, with diversity of appeal and presentation of different points of view." Superintendent Bobby New agreed with Taylor's challenge of three books and to her delight overrode the review committee, which she called "sad and pathetic." The school board first supported then reversed New's decision by a narrow 4-3 vote. Laura Underwood, Chris Bell, and Howard Hamilton supported the position of New and Taylor that the books should be restricted.
The battle continued all summer and into the next school year. Laurie Taylor was supported by State Senator Jim Holt of Springdale and Jonesboro's Debbie Pelley of the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee. Johnny Tittle, tax dodger and right-wing radio ranter from Elkins, was there for her, and Mike Masterson wrote seven different editorial coulmns praising Laurie as "selfless and noble" and applauding her various positions to restrict library books. Lots of heat but very little light.
The matter was resolved when Judge Rudy Moore, the School Board attorney, told the Fayetteville board that Federal Judge Jimm Hendren -- who had recently ruled that the Cedarville School District violated the First Amendment and ordered the return of banned Harry Potter books to the shelf -- would likely decide any case involving Fayetteville. With the precedent firmly established, the screwy idea of putting school library books on restricted access would be legally indefensible.
Don't get too smug. Mike and Laurie Masterson are still around. The book banners will always be with us.