ACLU of Mississippi defends freedom to read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ after Biloxi school ban

JACKSON, MS - The ACLU of Mississippi has issued a statement condemning the Biloxi School Board’s decision to ban the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Here’s the statement in full:

“Since our founding, the ACLU has opposed censorship in all forms – from books and radio to film, television, and the internet. We have consistently fought to make sure all have the right to say, think, read, and write whatever they want without fear of government reprisal. The removal of Lee Harper’s To Kill a Mockingbird by the Biloxi School Board challenges the protections in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

“The right to free expression includes the freedom to read whatever we choose. Yet state governments and local school districts, like the Biloxi Public School District, have worked to censor speech and ban books.

“We believe in an educated citizenry. We believe in a society where ideas are openly disseminated, discussed, and debated. We believe that the right to disagree is fundamental to our democracy, and that our country and communities function best when citizens exercise their right to read, learn, and explore the world around them. This is especially true for our students, who are shaping their own ideologies and will lead our state for generations to come.

“In a state like Mississippi, where we continue to deal with racial injustices and discrimination even today, it is critical that our students have the opportunity to engage on the themes presented in To Kill a Mockingbird. Discussing these themes encourages critical thinking among our youth, and, ultimately, impacts behavior that is just and fair to all.

“We will continue to work to defend the First Amendment and to protect the right to free speech, the right to access information and the right to make up your own mind.”