10 Top CBLDF Stories of 2016

December 28, 2016
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As 2016 comes to a close, we look back on our 10 most-read stories of the past year…

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(c) Stephan Pastis

Pearls Before Swine Strip Pulled for ISIS Reference

On July 27, the award-winning syndicated strip published daily in more than 750 newspapers nationwide was abruptly pulled for its loose reference to ISIS. Creator Stephan Pastis made the announcement to fans on Facebook and attempted to share the cartoon, but it wouldn’t upload. Whether it was a technical glitch or a block by the social media giant, others were able to post the strip, which went viral.

The cartoon, which used a pun to mock the irrational fear of ISIS and the NSA’s wiretapping practices, was replaced with a 2002 strip, but many questioned whether the correct course of action was to pull the remove the strip entirely.

"Profit" by Rick Friday

(c) Rick Friday

Idaho Cartoonist Fired / Rehired After Criticizing Farm Industry CEOs

A complaint from an advertiser may have temporarily ended Rick Friday’s 21-year long stint drawing cartoons for the Iowa-based newspaper Farm News back in May, but with the support of fans and the free speech community, he was rehired in July.

The cartoon that started the two-month free speech battle tackled the tough topic of corporate greed in the farming industry — a cartoon that led an undisclosed seed dealer to cancel their regular advertisements and the initial release of Friday from his freelance position.

Despite being fired though, Friday stood up for his First Amendment rights and fought the issue, attracting the eye of the internet and free speech communities. In response to the support, the newspaper not only issued a formal apology, but also rehired Friday.

Georgia O'Keeffe painting

Georgia O’Keeffe: Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow, 1923

Substitute Teacher Fired for O’Keeffe Lesson

After using the word “vagina” to describe the the artworks of Georgia O’Keeffe in a Michigan middle school, long-term substitute teacher Allison Wint was abruptly fired. According to school district policy, her inclusion of the word changed her class from a discussion of art to one of sex education — a discussion that requires parental notification ahead of the lesson.

Lucifer TV

(c) Fox

One Million Moms Fight Lucifer by Boycotting Olive Garden

The American Family Association’s One Million Moms has regularly boycotted books and television shows for their supposed propagation of anti-Christian values. In June, with the release of the new Fox show Lucifer, based on the character introduced in the acclaimed comic Sandman by Neil Gaiman and featured in his own DC Comics series, the group set up a petition to have the show cancelled, calling it “spiritually dangerous” and insulting to Christian morals.

When that didn’t work, they then boycotted the popular restaurant chain Olive Garden, which was one of the show’s sponsors. Nothing seemed to come out of this boycott other than an increased awareness of the show and Olive Garden’s sponsorship status.

Phil Bildner

Phil Bildner

Texas School District Cancels Author’s Visit After Transgender Book Recommendation

The popular author and speaker Phil Bildner was scheduled to make his 9th tour of the Round Rock Independent School District in Texas, but the district suddenly cancelled his visit.

Although no formal reason was ever cited, Bildner believes that it had to do with his recommendation of the critically acclaimed middle-school novel George by Alex Gino, which tells the story of a transgender youth. In a letter Bildner wrote to the district, he called on them to “take responsibility” and “acknowledge the truth” — both the district has been reluctant to do through its maintained silence about the situation.

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The Case of This One Summer in a K-12 Minnesota School

The single K-12 school in Henning, Minnesota decided to ban the award-winning and critically acclaimed graphic novel This One Summer after one parent complained about the book.

Citing concerns that have sadly become commonplace since This One Summer being named the first graphic novel Caldecott Honoree, Henning administrators admitted that they would have never purchased the book had they known its content.

CBLDF joined the Kids’ Right to Read Project urging the district to restore the graphic novel. In June, the book was restored to the library but with a few conditions: it must be shelved in a separate section from those for younger readers, and students in grades 10-12 must have signed parental permission to read the book.

Deadpool

Utah Backs Down From Deadpool Censorship Attempt

After the Salt Lake City-based movie theater Brewvies faced losing their liquor license and a $25,000 fine for serving alcohol during a screening of Deadpool, the theater fought back and stood up for their First Amendment rights by filing suit against the antiquated law that prohibits the service of alcohol during the exhibition of simulated sex acts.

In response to attention and the threat of a lawsuit, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control decided to not cite the theater, but later issued a claim that the enforcement of the law does not violate the First Amendment.

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Bookstore Threatened for Anti-Trump Display

Featuring books about Hitler as well as a banner bearing a swastika and the phrase “Trump: Make America Hate Again,” the bookstore Inquiring Minds in Saugerties, New York, was threatened with misdemeanor zoning violation charges for their anti-Trump window display.

The display, which clearly is protected by the store’s First Amendment Right to free expression, was met not only with the zoning charges, but also was picketed by protestors. Despite the protests, the store owner Brian Donoghue stood firmly by his store’s display and right to free speech. The city recognized agreed to remove the notices if Donoghue removed the display after the election — something he intended to do regardless.

Dompie Stompie

Dompie Stompie

Comic Created in WWII Safehouse Finally Published Decades Later

Seven decades after its initial production, Emmanuel Joels’ comic Dompie Stompie Metal Wire Man was finally published. Conceived while hiding in a Dutch attic during WWII, Joels drew the comic for his girlfriend Hetty van Son, who was also in hiding. As Joels daughter Jet describes the comic, “It’s a nice family story… but it’s also a story of the incredible willpower of my parents and their whole generation not to succumb to darkness even when resisting it seemed pointless.”

After the war, the stories of Dompie Stompie simply became tales for the dinner table, Jet saw the importance of the work, and in March it was officially published. The original work is currently on display at the Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum, where curator Irene Faber calls it “an illustration of stubborn bravery.”

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Crime Comics (Still) Illegal in Canada

Earlier this year, Global News talked about an enforceable vestige of Canada’s own great comic scare — the 1949 law that technically makes it illegal to possess any comics that depict crime. From contemporary crime comics to your favorite superhero book, all of these can come under the scrutiny of the infamous “Fulton Bill” named after MP E. Davie Fulton, who, like his U.S. counterparts Dr. Fredric Wertham and Senator Estes Kefauver, spearheaded a campaign against comics.

Now noted simply as Section 163, 1b of the Criminal Code of Canada, the “Offenses Tending to Corrupt Morals” clause is not only a reminder of a tenuous time in comics history, but demonstrates how much that time still impacts comics today.

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2017 by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

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