readers debate playboy's place in oak lawn library
wednesday, november 9, 2005
the sunday nov. 6 editorial criticizing the oak lawn village board's vote to send a letter to the oak lawn library about its tax-funded collection of playboy brings one word to mind � myopic. since when can't a public body formally speak its piece when it views another public body to be in the wrong?
does the southtown think congress can't criticize the president and vice versa in matters of public policy? or the city of chicago can't do likewise to the general assembly in springfield? since every public body represents the people, certainly each can say what it thinks about another's decision formally or informally.
at issue with the oak lawn library and playboy is a public policy that has the potential to harm children and women after men use playboy as one form of sexual pleasure.
freedom is not the right to any and all things due to divergence but the right to what is good for ourselves and the whole of society. it seems the southtown's editorial has focused only on rights rather than the common good, which we all have a serious obligation to protect, defend and uphold.
congratulations are in order for our oak lawn mayor and trustees and not a critical editorial. they did the right thing and showed moral fortitude by their vote against the library and playboy.
nancy m. czerwiec
when the local election this spring was history and the new administration took over the reins of governments, i had great hopes for the future of oak lawn.
i was all for the current administration until i read the article in the daily southtown (oct. 26) titled "village to ask library to remove playboy." i was amazed and chagrined at the village board of trustees for becoming embroiled in a small, vocal group's attempt to impose its form of censorship on the people of oak lawn.
surely the village trustees did not base their consent to petition the library board to remove playboy on the outlandish claim that "80 percent of the people in the village don't want playboy in the library."
if the village board of trustees believed that group's claim, i hope they took steps to verify their numbers. if not, i believe they have been gulled.
there is no valid reason for the board to be a party to the banning of (censoring) playboy. the u.s. supreme court in 386 us 767 and 391 us 462, et al., made it clear that such magazines are not obscene or pornographic.
r. william wolf
i disagree with your editorial that states the oak lawn village board should "mind its own business" when it comes to playboy in the oak lawn library.
the village board has every right to take a stand on any issue that affects its town. it's done all the time, and i applaud them. they understand they have no legal jurisdiction over the library, but issuing an opinion is absolutely within their scope of authority.
lansing's village board did the exact same thing a few years ago when it passed a resolution in support of filters on lansing's publicly funded library computers. they had no jurisdiction, but it was a strong statement of their position, and it carried weight.
a few years prior to that, one or two neighboring towns passed resolutions supporting lansing's efforts to get rid of a nude strip bar. why did they do it? because they, too, wanted it gone.
porn and porn businesses do damage, such as increasing sex crimes and decreasing property values. numerous land-use studies are proof. and those neighboring towns knew it.
many people do not want their tax dollars paying for pornography. it's that simple. what the library does affects all taxpaying oak lawn residents, including the village board.
the ball is, once again, in the library's court. i hope they do the right thing this time and remove that degrading magazine. they have struck out twice. we know what happens with three.
it was distressing to read in the southown [sic] that oak lawn mayor dave heilmann and all the village trustees are actually considering overstepping their boundaries by censoring the oak lawn library. their action is based, in part, on information provided by trustee marjorie joy, who is promoting family values. does ms joy believe this latest crusade will help us voters forget how her personal lack of ethics pervaded the set-up of a clandestine meeting with target, excluding the mayor and some trustees?
their action is also based, in part, on mark decker's obsession to rid the village of magazine pornography. mr. decker's misguided crusade has in fact used the news media to focus on the oak lawn library as a place to view pornography for free, alerting hundreds of people to this little-known fact to which most of us were blissfully ignorant. does not the library have the same freedom of speech as mr. decker?
in today's world it is unfortunate that pornography exists everywhere; we cannot eradicate that. however, we can continue the same perspective that oak lawn has held historically, that is of a hardworking, family-oriented and community-minded village. since mayor heilmann and the new trustees have taken office, the village board has taken a direction with a wonderfully powerful vision of oak lawn as a community that is globally expanding itself into the millennium to meet the future needs of its people. it seems ironic to me that this same village board would even consider such a narrow-minded action as to threaten another governing board's rights and freedoms.
so the editorial writers for the daily southtown do not believe that the oak lawn village board should get involved in the debate over playboy in the oak lawn public library. why? the southtown claims that since the oak lawn library board is an elected body, the decision to keep playboy shouldn't be questioned � even if 80 percent of oak lawn residents disagree.
this is alarming, to say the least. the fact that the daily southtown, in siding with the library board, openly dismisses the "irrelevant" will of the people smacks of the elitism that is typical of the out-of-touch media. does the southtown mean to suggest that the taxpayers and their representatives don't have the right to complain, criticize, affect or petition their government about policies, even those they subsidize with their tax dollars?
the founding fathers certainly didn't believe that the will of the governed was "irrelevant" � in fact, that right was secured in the very first amendment to the u.s. constitution.
and why shouldn't the seven library board members be checked by another branch of government? checks and balances have historically worked well in our representative republic � why should the library board be any different?
what are the writers of the southtown afraid of, the people actually having a voice in this matter? in a government of the people, by the people and for the people, why shouldn't the oak lawn residents' representatives weigh in on the issue of tax-subsidized pornography? the library board certainly doesn't seem too interested in the wishes of the patrons it serves, only the dictates the american library association, an unelected and ultra-liberal organization based not in oak lawn, but in downtown chicago.
in their arrogance, the seven members of the library board have not simply rejected one oak lawn citizen, but the wishes of the entire village. one can be certain that the unanimous vote of the village trustees did not occur without significant pressure from the community. the "we know better than you" attitude of both the oak lawn library and southtown newspaper is just plain offensive.
furthermore, the southtown's argument that cosmopolitan or the swimsuit edition of sports illustrated may be the next item removed is a ridiculous straw-man argument. much as the southtown editors would like to turn this into an issue of censorship, it is really about taxpayer-funded pornography, which most regular folk can clearly distinguish from nonpornographic literature. playboy is a pornographic magazine that exploits and demeans women. it undermines the values of commitment, loyalty and the values of family relationships. village trustees and everyday citizens of oak lawn are within their rights to want it removed.
in short, the library board does not have the final say about what taxpayers can or cannot do with their money � the people of oak lawn do!
david e. smith, senior policy analyst, illinois family institute
in an item in the oct. 26 local section of the daily southtown, it was reported that the mayor and village board of oak lawn had unanimously decided to send a letter to the oak lawn library asking that playboy be censored from the shelf. this in response to a demand from one resident, apparently acting in concert with or at the direction of an unnamed right-wing group.
frankly, i expected better. the mayor is a lawyer. i do not know his specialty, but his curious interpretation of the first amendment to the constitution makes me question the logic behind his decision. his statement that "there is a difference between censorship and sponsorship" is misleading. does he seriously feel that the library is sponsoring something by having it on the shelf? to follow the mayor's premise to its logical conclusion, if the library has films that contain violence, does this mean that the library is a sponsor of violence? does a book about the ku klux klan make the library a klan group? please! censorship is exactly what he is advocating, and i do not recall him running on a platform embracing censorship. is this the new direction that he envisioned for the village?
it is also amazing how one person with an agenda apparently has the village board doing his bidding. mark decker claims to have commissioned a survey. the obvious questions are, who conducted this survey, and are the survey questions and results part of the public record? survey results can vary widely depending on the wording of the questions and other factors, including the bias of the organization or individual commissioning the survey. if i commissioned a survey that showed that 80 percent of oak lawn residents favored eliminating taxes, would the mayor shut down the village operations?
decker continues in his misleading efforts to identify adult-oriented material with what is legally defined as obscenity. adult material is not a synonym for obscenity. the fact that mayor heilmann has no problem with the sale of playboy in the village shows that he is familiar with the legal definition of what constitutes obscenity. the police chief also dealt with the concept recently. does anyone really think that the 44 people who requested playboy from the library are the only people in oak lawn reading playboy or watching adult movies?
library director jim casey stated in the article that in the past 32 years, he has never seen this type of censorship directed at a library from a municipal body. his remarks and opinion were in line with library board president patricia roberts when she stated that censorship is not a proper role for the library. my commendation to you both for your dedication to duty and courage in not pandering to self-appointed censors, whether elected or not.
i hope that the library board will continue in its principled stand against censorship, especially so soon after banned book week (sept. 24 to oct. 1). the visionaries who founded this country never intended or anticipated that the constitution, for which so many noble lives were sacrificed, would be treated with such contempt by people unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the concept of true freedom and liberty. thomas jefferson must be spinning in his grave!
we must remember that true freedom of speech really means the freedom to disagree. any other definition is meaningless and more suited to a dictatorship or theocracy.