September 2014

Lolita and the Freedom to Read

In celebration of Banned Books Week (September 21 - 27, 2014), we have a guest blog post by Barbara Gordon-Lickey, member of the ACLU of Oregon Education Committee.

I was in high school when I first learned that maintaining the freedom to read requires vigilance. I wanted to read Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Although Lolita received much critical acclaim, it was controversial, to put it mildly, because it dealt with a sexual relationship between an adult man and a 12 year old girl. After its initial publication in France in 1955, Lolita was banned for several years in France and Great Britain, as well as several other countries. Surprisingly, it was published in the United States in 1958 without major incident, although some local libraries refused to buy it. Lolita was on the New York Times best seller list for two years and sold over 50 million copies, possibly because of its controversial subject matter. It was not an obscure piece of erotic literature.

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A Summer of Racial Tension and a Spotlight on Police Use of Force

By Executive Director David Fidanque

The death of Michael Brown followed by weeks of demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, has highlighted that race still divides us as a nation – especially in the way our criminal laws are enforced.

For most white Americans, sitting safely in their homes watching the events in Ferguson unfold like a reality TV show, the drama was a stark reminder that each of our communities could be just one incident away from lighting a powder keg of racial tension and fear that is just under the surface.

For people of color, many of whom experience every day the disparate impact of the way that police officers are deployed and do their jobs, the death of yet another unarmed African American young man has intensified the resolve to eliminate racial profiling and other discriminatory practices in the criminal justice system.

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Constitution Day: ACLU to Award $25,000 to Schools Nationwide

By Justin M. Loveland, Outreach Intern

In 2004, Congress created Constitution Day – a day on which we can all celebrate our fundamental rights and responsibilities set forth by the U.S. Constitution. The same piece of legislation requires that all schools receiving federal funds teach something about the U.S. Constitution on September 17.

The law was spearheaded by Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who was worried – and perhaps rightly so – that not enough Americans could list the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, recall the number of senators there are, explain the three branches of government, or decide whether the Constitution establishes the United States as a Christian nation. For the record, it does not.

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