Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on April 11, 2012. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016. I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.
2012 Jefferson Muzzles bestowed for censoring speech, expression
April 11, 2012 10:29 PM MST
As it has done each year for the past two decades, the Charlottesville-based Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has handed out its Jefferson Muzzles to government officials and agencies who stretch their authority and stifle to speech of American citizens.
The Center is also the sponsor of the First Amendment Monument on Charlottesville’s downtown mall, which is sometimes ruefully called the “Free Speech Memorial.”
This year’s Muzzle winners – who may or may not accept their awards graciously – were listed in a news release made available just after midnight on April 12, one day before the birthday of the namesake of the Thomas Jefferson Center:
*The Florida Legislature and Florida Governor Rick Scott for passing the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, a law restricting what Florida physicians may say to their patients regarding guns and gun safety.
*Sam Houston State University (Texas) Professor Joe Kirk and the University Police Department for their respective actions involving a temporary campus “free speech wall” on which students were invited to write whatever they wanted. Professor Kirk literally cut the “F-word” from the wall where it was utilized to criticize President Obama. The university police then threatened to arrest any students who attempted to write the offending word again.
*Mayor Wayne Garner of Carrollton, Georgia for unilaterally canceling a previously-approved community theater production of The Rocky Horror Show at a publicly-owned venue. The show was in rehearsal when a cast member posted a video clip on his personal Facebook page. When the Mayor saw the clip, he canceled the already advertised production.
*The Administration of Catawba Valley Community College in North Carolina for banning a student from campus after he criticized via Facebook the school’s partnership with Higher One Financial Services and the aggressive marketing of a CVCC branded Debit Mastercard.
*Salem, Missouri Public Library’s Board of Trustees for using filtering software on library computers that classified many non-mainstream religious websites as “occult” or “criminal,” thereby blocking access to the sites.
*Lake of the Ozarks Camdenton R-III School District in Missouri for using filtering software on school computers that blocked access to many websites advocating equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people while comparable anti-gay websites were not blocked.
There were also two Virginia winners, including one that received a “Lifetime Achievement Muzzle”:
*The Norfolk, Virginia, Police Department for arresting and prosecuting a man for filming an on-duty police officer sitting in his car, claiming the man had to have the officer’s permission.
*The Virginia Department of Corrections for preventing an inmate from receiving a spoken word CD of works by Dylan Thomas because of a policy that permits only approved music and faith-based spoken word CDs. This is the third consecutive Muzzle for the VDOC, having previously been censured in 2010 for restricting access to religious spoken word CDs, and in 2011 for denying prisoners’ access to “The Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook,” a work detailing the legal rights of prisoners.
It was the Virginia Department of Corrections that received only the third lifetime Muzzle in the history of the awards. The others have been given to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in 1999, and the Federal Communications Commission, in 2008.
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