among 2001 Muzzle Award winners
the 10th straight year, the anniversary of Thomas Jeffersons
birth on April 13 was marked by citing those who have forgotten
his warning that freedom of expression cannot be limited without
1991, the Thomas Jefferson Center
for the Protection of Free Expression, headed by U.Va. Law
professor Robert M. ONeil, has conferred this dubious honor
on some 80 people and organizations, including two U.S. presidents,
three U.S. Senators, 18 public school principals and school districts,
seven judges and a host of other public agencies and officials.
Charlottesville-based Center is a non-partisan, non-profit organization
devoted solely to protecting free expression against a host of
threats. Reflecting on a decade of censuring the censors, ONeil
said that the Muzzles come from all parts of the country
and all points on the political spectrum. Increasingly, threats
to free speech, and thus Jefferson Muzzles, involve curbs on electronic
and digital expression through the Internet and other new media.
of the people and groups we cite have the best of intentions.
They honestly believe that some higher value or interest justifies
inhibiting speech. We have the unhappy task of telling them why
we feel they are wrong and why we believe Mr. Jefferson
would also take them to task.
ONeil observed that one of the constants is the distressingly
large number of candidates from which the final Muzzles are chosen.
This years crop includes:
The 106th Congress of the United States
For requiring that all schools and public libraries that participate
in certain federal programs install filtering software on all
Internet-access computer terminals, regardless of whether the
federal programs paid for the terminals or Internet connection.
Missouri State Rep. Sam Gaskill
For introducing a bill in the state legislature that would authorize
the use of force against someone who burns a flag.
The New Iberia (La.) Sheriffs Department
For confiscating a number of compact discs (without a search warrant)
played at a local roller skating rink and arresting the owner
and the manager of the rink for contributing to the delinquency
of minors. Among the discs seized were The Hokey Pokey,
The Chicken Dance and Rudolph the Red-Nosed
The Sacramento (Calif.) Convention & Visitors Bureau
For allowing the organizers of a convention being held there to
put clothes on an outdoor statue of Poseidon because they objected
to the nude depiction of the Greek god.
Essex County (N.J.) Executive James Treffinger and Sheriff Armando
For denying producers of the HBO series The Sopranos permission
to shoot on county-owned property because they did not like the
series portrayal of Italian-Americans.
The Bluestem (Kan.) Unified School District No. 205
For reacting to an art poster created by an accomplished art student
by suspending her for three months unless she underwent psychological
The administration of Varina High School (Henrico County, Va.)
For suspending two high-school students for allegedly disrupting
the school day. The students organized a demonstration before
school hours to protest a school policy banning Confederate symbols
and to celebrate the governors declaration of April as Confederate
Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy
For blocking a speech to the House by the 1999 Teacher of the
Year after learning that the teacher had criticized an education
reform bill in a speech to the Senate.
The County Commission of Montgomery County, Tex.
For ignoring the recommendations of the County Attorney and the
County Library Advisory Board and ordering the installation of
filters on every public access computer in the library system.
The library already had a policy prohibiting Internet use by minors
without parental permission.
The administration of the Paxson School for Advanced Studies,
slicing the pages from a textbook containing a Pulitzer Prize-winning
play because some scenes in the play were deemed inappropriate
for high-school students. The same text had been used for four
years but the play had never been assigned reading.
more on the 2001 Jefferson Muzzle Awards, visit http://www.tjcenter.org.