As part of Governor Jeb Bush’s “Just Read, Florida!” program, students are being encouraged to read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in conjunction with the December release of a Disney movie based on the book. The director of the program, Mary Laura Openshaw, tells the Palm Beach Post that the goal of the program is “to get kids reading” — and that state officials did not approach the reading program to help Disney or the promoter of the film, Walden Media.
But it is not the commercial aspect of the venture that bothers the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is arguing that the contest violates the First Amendment because it promotes a “religious story.” Barry Lynn, director of Americans United (AU), tells the Post that the Florida contest is “just totally inappropriate” because of the themes of the book. “It is simply a retelling of the story of Christ,” says Lynn.
Why AgapePress is bringing up the cronyism issue here I don’t know, but I’ll discuss that in a minute. First, is Lynn right?
Doesn’t look like it. Lewis’s Narnia series may have religious overtones, but as far as I can tell (I haven’t read any of the books, though I did see a cartoon of one when I was little) it has significant literary value. It’s certainly something that could be argued about, but it seems pretty subjective. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the book. But it’s not like Bush is promoting Mere Christianity. On the other hand, Lynn is the minister here, and has said that he loves the books, so his opinion that they’re overtly religious is probably worth something. I’m inclined to let Bush use the book in the contest, though. Simply disagreement with Lynn is not a possibility for the religious right, however. No, they have to go one absolutely absurd step more:
Gary McCaleb, senior counsel with ADF, calls AU’s attempt to censor the book “classic left-wing activism.”
“When I see the far-left coming out of the bunch of book-banners, as they are in this case, I just shake my head,” McCaleb says. “The amazing thing to me is they focus on Narnia — and really the only way you can understand Narnia to be a ‘Christian book’ [series] is to know a lot about Christianity to begin with to see that there are some analogies there.”
AU is calling on Governor Bush to replace The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe with what it calls an “alternative non-religious book.” McCaleb contends Americans United is clearly exhibiting that it is trying to stifle speech it does not like.
First off, I put that little “Rev.” thing in front of Lynn’s name to make a point. Barry Lynn is a reverend. Get it? How in the hell can a Christian book be speech his group doesn’t like? It’s patently absurd. And book banning? There’s probably no point in explaining the difference between government promotion of religion and free speech again. It they don’t get it by now they never will. They’re brainwashed fundamentalist assholes who think it’s their God-given right to run our government according to their fucked up religious beliefs.
I really can’t express how much this kind of thing pisses me off without stringing a lot expletives together, which is hardly useful, so let’s look at the cronyism thing. It’s actually not really a huge deal, but it seems fairly obvious. Walden Media is owned by a man who’s contributed around $100k to Republican candidates and causes in the past several years. The first two books chosen for the “Just Read, Florida!” program? Hoot and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Guess who’s making those two books into movies? Walden Media. That’s really not much in the scheme of things, but it’s somewhat amusing.
So, in conclusion, even when the religious right gets something right, they can’t do it without being flaming morons about it. Sheesh.