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Book bansBad news for those who had hoped that the move by religious conservatives to ban Alice Walker’s The Color Purple in the Brunswick County schools had run out of steam once and for all with the 3-2 “no” vote on January 3. Judging by the comments of chief book ban champion, board member Catherine Cooke, things may just be getting warmed up.

Check out the video from the January 7 school board meeting in which Cooke goes on a semi-coherent rant (it’s at the 48 minute mark) about how “our Founding Fathers established our universities and our schools on Christian principles,” how she will continue to battle “things that are not decent,” and how she plans to continue to go over curricula and related items with a “fine-toothed comb.”

Sigh….Yet more compelling evidence that there are few tougher jobs in the Republic than serving on a local school board beset by the religious right.

The board meets again next Tuesday the 21st.

(Photo: ACLU of North Carolina)

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As noted in this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing,  there are lots of important reasons to be deeply concerned about the decision of a political group funded almost exclusively by the state Budget Director to demand the private correspondence of a prominent McCrory administration critic.

ICYMI, however, Professor Paul Carrington of the Duke University School of Law (the school’s former Dean) authored a column (and then an exchange of letters to the editor - click here for the Civitas letter)  in the Durham Herald-Sun  in recent days that sheds additional light on the subject.

Here is Carrington’s most recent on-the-money take — which was published last Friday:

Civitas not telling whole story about Nichol Read More

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Art Pope 3Pat McCrory 4ICYMI, scholars representing 24 North Carolina colleges and universities and 61 separate departments and programs called on Gov. McCrory and state Budget Director Art Pope yesterday to condemn and repudiate the actions of the Pope-Civitas Institute (an organization funded almost exclusively by Pope’s family foundation)  in demanding the personal email, correspondence, phone logs, text messages and calendar entries of Prof. Gene Nichol of the UNC- Chapel Hill School of Law. Click here to read WRAL.com story.

Here is the text of the letter that the scholars delivered to McCrory and Pope yesterday:

Open Letter from North Carolina Scholars

December 14, 2013

To Governor McCrory and State Budget Director Art Pope,

As scholars from institutions of higher education throughout North Carolina and citizens committed to the constitutional right of free speech, we call on you to condemn the Civitas Institute’s demand for six weeks’ worth of personal email correspondence, phone logs, text messages, and calendar entries from Gene Nichol, Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the UNC School of Law.

This request is clearly in retribution for Professor Nichol’s public commentary critical of your administration. Read More

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The editorial staff of the Greensboro News & Record issued a strong condemnation of yesterday’s convictions in Wake County District Court of 12 Moral Monday protesters including state NAACP leader, Rev. William Barber. According to the N&R:

“Wake County District Court Judge Joy Hamilton brushed aside constitutional claims Wednesday and convicted a dozen Moral Monday demonstrators of trespassing and violating legislative building rules. The defendants should prevail on appeal….

There should have been no arrests. The protests were peaceful. Participants didn’t damage property or attempt to occupy the premises or stop lawmakers from entering their chambers and conducting business. They were expressing their views — and, yes, praying — inside a government building at a time when it was open to the public….

The problem is that the exercise of rights is sometimes disorderly. The people’s right to gather in public places means their presence must be tolerated by government officials who would prefer they go away.

Moral Monday protesters did not go away. All North Carolinians, no matter their political views, should stand with them, because all hold the same rights. The courts should defend them.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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From the good folks at the ACLU-NC:

Randolph Board Votes to Reverse Ban on “Invisible Man”
ACLU of NC Says Episode is Valuable Reminder of Duty to Promote Academic Freedom and Reject Censorship

ASHEBORO – Tonight, the Randolph County Board of Education voted 6-1 to reverse its previous vote banning Ralph Ellison’s literary classic, “The Invisible Man,” from Randolph County schools.

In response, Chris Brook, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) released the following statement:

“Tonight, the Randolph County Board of Education righted a wrong. The freedom to read is just as essential to a healthy democracy as the freedom of speech and all other rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. This episode should serve as a valuable reminder to students, teachers, parents, and school officials across the state of our ongoing duty to promote academic freedom, ensure the free exchange of ideas and information, and reject the always looming threat that censorship and suppression, for any reason, pose to a free society.”