Arts & Culture
11:50 am
Thu April 11, 2013

Charlottesville Group Announces Muzzle Awards

Credit At the First Amendment Monument, by Sam Welty.

It’s that time of year again in Charlottesville.  The Center for the Protection of Free Expression has issued its annual Muzzle Awards – also known as the Muzzies, and – as always – there are some incredible accounts of free speech repressed.

Virginia did not make the list this year, but Oklahoma collected two Muzzies – one for Prague High School Principal David Smith who withheld the valedictorian’s diploma after she said, in her speech, that she didn’t know what the hell should would be doing with her life.  Smith demanded a written apology and is still holding the sheepskin hostage.  In Oklahoma City, a five-year-old was forced to wear his University of Michigan T-shirt inside out, because the district only allows logos or emblems for Oklahoma teams.  And from the Annville-Cleona School Board in Pennsylvania comes the story of a book called the Dirty Cowboy.

“Which tells the story of a cowboy who takes his annual bath in a river, and he asks his trusty dog to watch his clothes while he takes his bath.  When he comes out of the river, he smells so different, so clean that the dog doesn’t recognize him and protects the clothes and runs off with them.”

Josh Wheeler, who heads the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, says the cowboy’s privates were shielded in clever ways – by a cactus, a frog, a flock of birds, but when one family complained, the school district removed the book from its library.  But lest you think such violations of the First Amendment are confined to small towns somewhere in the middle, Wheeler points to the Democratic and Republican National conventions which took voice votes on controversial matters.

The Dems were trying to decide whether to leave a reference to God in their platform.

“It clearly was an even split.  The vote result was supposed to be a two-thirds majority.  They took the vote three times before finally just declaring, “Oh, we’re going to go with the side that we want.  In the Republican case what was interesting was the teleprompter actually indicated the winner of the vote before the vote had even been taken.”

And in Congress, a prominent environmentalist was barred from showing a picture of a little girl taking a bath in orange water – contaminated by mountain-top mining.  Doug Lamborn, who chairs the committee on Energy and Natural Resources never saw the photo but feared he could be looking at child pornography.  Activist Maria Gunnoe was questioned for an hour by Capitol Police before being released without charge.

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