In a blatant display of disregard for the First Amendment, Scott R. Kaupin, the Republican mayor of Enfield, Connecticut has forced that town’s public library to cancel a showing of the Michael Moore film, Sicko, a 2007 documentary on healthcare reform. The film, a 2007 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary, was planned as part of the library’s nonfiction series.
But, bowing to pressure from the Town Council and a mayoral threat to cut off funding for the library if the film were screened, the library reluctantly cancelled the program.
As Mayor Kaupin rather thuggishly told the Journal Inquirer, "“The sentiment by the Council majority is that it’s a poor choice and that they should definitely reconsider. And if they don’t reconsider, then they’re going to have the repercussions of the council." The Library’s director Henry Dutcher told the paper that he could not think of any other occasion when the council intervened in the library’s programming and had a film pulled.
Councilwoman Cynthia Mangini, a Democrat, was the only council member to speak against the move, calling it censorship and a violation of First Amendment rights, likening the move to banning books.
I agree. The library has a long-standing process of selecting films for this series. If the Council feels it necessary, it can ask that the series be extended to include other films; it can sponsor a public forum with critics of Obama’s healthcare plan to discuss the issues; it can even stage a competing film festival drawn exclusively from whatever political perspective it wants. But forcing the doc’s cancellation is in the worst tradition of American debate, discourse and democracy.
As the Connecticut Library Association argued in a letter of protest to Kaupin, "public libraries should be a pillar of our American democracy and that democracy depends on an informed citizenry. People should be able to go their public library to read or view a wide variety of books and films about controversial topics and then make up their minds. Censoring the choices that people have or silencing the opposition is an insult to our form of government. The public library is supposed to be a battle ground for ideas."
Write Mayor Kaupin today, and ask him to withdraw the threats. Be polite — it’s not easy being a mayor, and having to reconcile competing interests and opinions. But be firm.