Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has opposed censorship in all its forms. From books and radio to film, television, and the internet, we have consistently fought to make sure Americans have the right to say, think, read, and write whatever they want without fear of government reprisal.
In 1926, we defended H. L. Mencken when he was charged with distributing copies of his banned magazine, American Mercury. In 1952, we won Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson (aka the “Miracle Decision”), in which the Supreme Court finally struck down film censorship laws. In 1978, we filed a Supreme Court friend-of-the-court brief challenging the government’s power to suppress radio broadcasts of George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television.” And in 1997, we won Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, which held that internet speech is entitled to full First Amendment protection.
Those are just a few examples. The ACLU has also been instrumental in challenging bans on dozens of books, including “Ulysses,” “Howl,” “The Joy of Sex,” the “Harry Potter” series, “Sophie’s Choice,” and more.
Every year, the ACLU marks Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read and calls attention to the wealth of creative expression that is stifled when books can be forbidden from library shelves. The ACLU has always vigilantly defended the First Amendment and the right to free speech. We believe in an educated citizenry and a society where ideas are openly disseminated, discussed, and debated. And throughout our history, we have worked to protect the right to access information and the right to make up your own mind.
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