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Conservatives aim at Banned Books Week

By DON JACOBSON

CHICAGO, Sept. 21 -- Religious conservatives are taking aim at the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, which they say is nothing more than an attempt to 'bully' parents and teachers into using books some find morally objectionable. The Colorado-based Focus on the Family, led by James Dobson, is spearheading the charge, while the ALA says Banned Books Week -- which started Saturday -- serves to raise support for Americans' 'freedom to read.' For each of the last three years, Focus on the Family has marked the beginning of Banned Books Week by releasing a critical study of the ALA's list of actions taken against books across the country and to denounce the term 'banned books,' saying virtually none of the instances cited by the ALA has resulted in books actually being 'banned' anywhere. Last week in Chicago, Focus on the Family held a news conference that featured testimony from Lisa Clinton, a Florida parent who said she was labeled a 'censor' by the ALA because she objected to her third-grade daughter being 'forced' to listen to a reading from R.L. Stine's 'Goosebumps' childrens' books series. Caia Hoskins of Focus on the Family says decisions made by librarians and teachers to keep schoolchildren away from objectionable materials is not censorship, but merely common-sense curriculum decisions based on the 'age appropriateness' of the books. Judith Krug of the Chicago-based ALA, however, says parents and groups who want to remove the books from the shelves, not just shield their own children, do indeed represent a threat of censorship.

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Krug acknowleges that of the 122 incidents cited by the ALA in its 1997 Banned Books Resource Guide, only one resulted in actual removal from the shelves but it wasn't for lack of trying by would-be censors. Krug says, 'They're right about that -- they're not banned. And they won't be because teachers, librarians, parents and the general public said, 'No. You are not going to remove our choices from us. You do not know more than we do and we're not going to permit you to do that.'' ---

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Copyright 1997 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---

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