Over the past few years, a coordinated national censorship campaign – with deep ties to the Christian nationalist movement – is targeting books about and awareness of minority faiths and ethnicities, LGBTQ+ identity, racism, and history. Thankfully, people of faith and conscience are organizing in their communities and taking a stand for our freedom to read. This week on The State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, we’re bringing you highlights from our recent Capitol Hill briefing  titled, Banned Beliefs: How People of Diverse Faiths are Fighting to Protect Our Public Schools and Libraries, featuring honorary host Rep. Jamie Raskin and diverse advocates for free speech. The event was moderated by  The State of Belief host Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush.

“I think that we need more politicians reading books, and fewer politicians banning books. The censorship of books, censorship of curricula, censorship of teachers, censorship of ideas and free speech and free discourse are always an exercise of power. They’re nothing that leads to the moral or spiritual improvement of society.”  – Rep. Jamie Raskin. Congressman Raskin, a former professor of constitutional law, represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.

“We cannot have freedom of religion without freedom of speech. We cannot have freedom of religion without defending the right to read.”Tracie D. Hall, former executive director of the American Library Association. With a background ranging from librarian to working at the Joyce Foundation and with the City of Chicago, Tracie has seen the power of words, literacy, and books from many angles, and is deeply concerned about how book bans threaten both free speech, and freedom of religion.

“There’s a direct correlation between allowing individuals, especially young kids, to have the knowledge, to have access to the knowledge and the different perspectives, to shape our narrative and to really understand who communities are, who and how they came into this country, how we live, how we contribute to society, and to, again, fight that ignorance and bring down some of these statistics that we’re seeing.”Anisha Singh, executive director of the Sikh Coalition. Anisha is a powerhouse leader, organizer, and activist who has led impactful campaigns at the Center for American Progress and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Censorship is about the status quo. It’s about free expression. It’s about what is acceptable and what is not. Who dictates the narrative? Who controls what the status quo is? And right now, that status quo is one that is very restricted, that is keeping many people marginalized because of identity, because of faith, because of these inherent characteristics that we have as humans that certain people just simply disagree with.”Cameron Samuels, executive director of Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT). A student activist from Texas, Cameron has been at the forefront of the youth movement to combat book bans.

To expand our reach, State of Belief  is now being distributed via the Religion News Service family of podcasts. Be sure to subscribe to the next generation of State of Belief today via AppleSpotifyAmazon, or  at  http://www.stateofbelief.com/newpodcast.

photo: Ralph Alswang

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