Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Revolutionary Voices, Part 3

An anonymous commentator has brought attention to a great idea about how to respond to a book ban.  Here’s an excellent example of a creative and educational response to a school board decision that is as opposite to creativity and education as you can get.

Readers may recall that the school board controlling the Rancocas Valley Regional High School (in New Jersey) recently banned an anthology for queer and questioning youth entitled Revolutionary Voices (see my posts of 5 May and 23 May).  “Banned” in this case means “removed from the school library.”
A local group has hit on a brilliant way to respond to this.  They are going to put on a “theatrical reading” of the banned book at a local cafĂ©.  The varied prose and poetry in the book readily lends itself to live performance, and it appears that the group has put some real thought into how to stage their production.  

Their stated hope is that:

"Upon witnessing our performances, upon reading this text, upon viewing these images, upon hearing these stories, you will recognize that Revolutionary Voices is not pornographic."

To see what they’re up to, visit:

And if you find yourself in the Montclair, NJ, area on June 27, attend the 8pm performance!

This seem like an excellent idea to me, since only a handful of people will every sit and read a banned book to verify the claims being made about it.  This performance will give the interested public a chance to learn about the contents of the book, to learn why the book is important for young readers, and to see that there is serious opposition to its censorship.   At many levels, this calls the bluff of the school board and the political activists who have challenged the book.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Revolutionary Voices, part 2

Earlier this month I noted that the Rancocas Valley Board of Education, in New Jersey, had made a dubious decision to ban (remove from library shelves) Revolutionary Voices, an anthology by and for queer and questioning youth.  What will happen next remains to be seen, but there might be more to the story.

The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union reports on its own website that it has made an Open Public Records request for documents relating to the board's decision.  That doesn't mean they ACLU will necessarily take action against the board, but it does indicate that they're considering what action to take.

Why seek these documents?  Probably because they ACLU is looking for evidence as to the motivations behind the board's decision. Court precedents, especially the 1982 Board v. Pico decision, make it clear that school boards need to have a valid pedagogical reason for removing a book that is already on a school library shelf, and cannot remove books in an attempt to enforce any kind of political orthodoxy. Were the ACLU to sue the school board over this act of censorship, the court would probably examine transcripts of board discussions, emails, memos, and the like, looking for information about what motivated the ban. The court would probably ask whether or not the district had an established procedure for handling challenges to library books, and whether or not that procedure was followed.  The court would want to know if the board followed or overrode the recommendations of a review committee, if there was one. The court would try to determine whether the board members actually knew the contents of the book, what details of the contents made the book educationally unfit, and how that analysis was arrived at. Of course, any comments indicating that the board made an uninformed decision, or made their decision in order to implement political or religious objectives, could weigh heavily against the ban.

In deciding what action, if any, to take, the ACLU would be likely to evaluate those same kinds of documents in order to estimate the strength of a possible lawsuit. It would be interesting to see what documents the school board produces in response to the Open Public Records request, and what they contain. I can only speculate, but with a copy of the banned book right here in my hand, I'd say the school board made a major legal blunder.  If they're smart, they'll reverse their decision before they have to divert large chunks of tax dollars to pay legal fees.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Doomed to Repeat History?

It appears that those who are ignorant of history are, indeed, doomed to repeat it.

The Post-Journal reported on May 12th that a parent has challenged Go Ask Alice, a Young Adult novel with a strong anti-drug message.  The book was going to be used in 7th- and 8th-grade health classes at the Thomas Jefferson middle school in Jamestown, New York.  Pending formal paperwork, a review committee will be formed to review the book and make recommendations. 

The school district had sent a letter to parents prior to the book’s use, noting that the book contained some profanity and sexual activity.  Some parents then read the book and found it offensive.  School district policy allows parents to opt their own children out of lesson materials they find offensive.  This was not sufficient for some parents, who have stated their intent to have the book removed from curricula throughout the school district. 

Both the school district and the parents in this incident seem to think they’ve discovered something new.  They’re quite mistaken about that.

First published in 1971, Go Ask Alice has been a frequent target of attempted censorship for decades. More recently, it occupies position 18 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most frequently challenged books 2000-2009.  It has sometimes been removed as the result of a challenge, but often retained, in part because many educators find that the book effectively communicates an anti-drug-use message to younger teens.  It was one of the books that the board of the Island Trees Union Free School District, also in New York state, removed from their school library in 1975.  That got them sued, with the result that the U.S. Supreme Court ordered this book returned to school library shelves in the famous Board of Education v. Pico decision (1982).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Banning Ghosts and Ghoulies?

The Nashua Telegraph reports that a parent at the Pennichuck Middle School in Nashua, New Hampshire, has challenged the availability of Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story, a Young Adult novel written by Mary Downing Hahn.  Online reviews indicate that many adults fondly remember this as one of their favorite scary books when they were kids. The news article says:

"The parent, whose name was not released, is objecting to the book’s themes of talking to the dead, spiritualism and 'the belief that a part of the body survives after death and that you can communicate with it,' according to the School District."

This is a refreshingly honest challenge, since no exaggerated or invented claims are being made about profane language or sexual content. A challenge like this is unlikely to succeed, though, since a difference of religious beliefs is simply not a valid reason for removing or restricting books in any public context.  The newspaper says the district will form a seven-member review committee to consider the challenge.  While it is laudable that the district has a challenge procedure and is following it, this all seems rather a waste of time, given the nature of the challenge.  It is a foregone conclusion that the book will be retained, since there is no legally supportable basis for doing otherwise.

The Nashua Telegraph did a good job in reporting on the challenge. They had the presence of mind to contact the American Library Association to find out about previous challenges.  The ALA spokesperson found that the book has been challenged, but not frequently, the last previously known challenge having taken place 14 years ago.  That, of course, is based on the challenges that are reported to the ALA, and that there might have been other, undocumented challenges.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Think Globally and Act Locally

I’ve begun preliminary organizing in my area for the 2010 observance of Banned Books Week, which runs from Saturday, 25 September through Saturday, 02 October.  This may seem a bit early, but for those of us operating in an academic environment, preliminary plans have to be made before the summer break in order to have a successful event in September.

Observance of Banned Books Week is important because: 1) hundreds of attempts to remove, hide, or restrict access to books are made every year in these United States, 2) most people are unaware of this problem, and 3) the best defense against censorship is an informed public.

Organizing any event can be time-consuming, but Banned Book Week events are relatively easy to put together. For one thing, I found that there already were a number of observances taking place in my area each year, but most of these were small in scope and little noticed. Just making sure one group knows what another group is doing can increase visibility and participation.

I’m passing all this on in hopes that others will take the initiative to organize similar events in their areas. I’m finding a lot of local support for ideas like:
  • A display of banned and challenged books at a local bookstore and/or library.
  • Web pages dedicated to banned and challenged books, put up by bookstores and libraries.
  • A display and other activities at the English departments of nearby colleges and universities.
  • A speech or presentation by an author whose books have been challenged.
  • A presentation or panel on Free Speech law by local law students.
  • A speech or presentation by a representative of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, or the National Coalition Against Censorship.
I’m also starting up a Banned Books reading club that will operate year-round.  We’ll meet once a month at a local bookstore, which was very happy to help start up the group.  At each meeting we’ll discuss a pre-selected title that has been banned or challenged, including a little of the censorship history of the selected book, which in many cases is easy to look up.  Between the ALA’s lists of frequently challenged books and new challenges going on constantly, there are more than enough titles to keep this reading club running for years.

I've put together some ideas and suggestions on my website, and have links there to resources available from organizations like the ALA, ABFFE, etc.  That info can be found at:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Bizarre Decision

A recent internet censorship case took an odd turn in Washington State on May 6th. The state Supreme Court decision is actually part of a suit that is being decided by a U.S. District court (a federal court), so the May 6th decision has not yet settled the matter.  An AP article explains that the next step is back to the federal court. 

The case, known as Bradburn v. North Central Regional Library District, is actually about a very narrow issue:  whether or not a public library has to unblock access to a legitimate website blocked by an internet filter upon demand by an adult. It’s not at all about obscenity or minors.  What the federal court asked the state Supreme Court to evaluate was whether or not such unblocking was required by the Free Speech provisions of the Washington state constitution.  The federal court will take the state court’s findings into consideration in a separate decision that will also consider the implications of federal law.

In a split decision, the majority of the justices on the state Supreme Court decided that the state constitution allowed the library to ignore an adult’s demand for unblocking.  Five justices wrote the prevailing opinion, with one justice agreeing with them, but writing a separate opinion. Three of the Supreme Court justices disagreed, writing a dissenting opinion.

It’s no surprise that I disagree with the majority’s decision.  But it’s not just a question of disagreement.  The court’s decision is nothing less than bizarre, bordering on the incomprehensible. And its incomprehensibility is not a question of legalese.  It’s a question of basic logic. The decision makes little sense.

To make their decision work, the majority treated internet filtering like “selection,” the process by which a library selects and acquires books and other materials.  A library does not (in fact, cannot) house every constitutionally-protected book, and so, the court reasoned, a library does not have to provide access to every constitutionally-protected web page.  Somehow, according to the court, this means that a library doesn't have to unblock a blocked web page just because an adult asks for it, even if the blocked page is clearly within the bounds of protected speech.

There are many quantum leaps of illogic in the court’s line of reasoning, and I’ll bore everybody to tears if I try to pick every detail apart. The main point is that the analogy between selection and internet filters is irrational.  Following the court’s logic, a library could subscribe to the New York Times, but could cut pages out of selected issues for any reason, or for no reason at all.  By the court’s logic, the library could buy ten books and decide keep two of them under lock and key.

I am not alone in holding this opinion. Three justices on the Washington state Supreme Court also took the majority to task.  Short and to the point, the dissenting opinion’s opening sentence speaks volumes:
“The question before this court is whether, consistent with our state constitution's free speech protections, a public library can actively restrict adult access to web sites containing constitutionally protected speech.  The question is easy to answer: of course it cannot.”
The dissenting opinion also says:
“There is simply no reason . . . to install a system to protect children that cannot be disabled when used by adults.”
“But censoring material on the Internet is not the same thing as declining to purchase a particular book. It is more like refusing to circulate a book that is in the collection based on its content. That would raise serious constitutional concerns.”
“Simply put, the State has no interest in protecting adults from constitutionally protected materials on the Internet.  These policies do exactly that.  The filter should be removed on the request of an adult patron.”
The problem with the court’s reasoning is not (at least not entirely) with its analysis of the law. That is, after all, their area of expertise. But in this decision, as in some others, the judges have demonstrated a lack of comprehension of what the internet is or what filters do.  The split in the decision on this case probably reflects different levels of technical understanding.  Some things the majority seems not to have grasped are:
  • The internet itself is a public forum. It is, in many ways, the ultimate public forum. As such, infringements upon internet Free Speech should always be subject to “strict scrutiny,” the most rigorous protection of Free Speech that courts can provide. 
  • When a library connects to the internet, it automatically has access to countless web pages.  Few libraries, if any, engage in any kind of selection process regarding internet sites.  In the absence of planned action, the library and its patrons have access to the entire internet, not just portions of it. 
  • Internet filters do not equate to selecting books to put on a library shelf.  Internet filters actively prevent access to materials that library patrons would otherwise have access to. Internet filters are much more like removing books from the shelves than they are like any kind of selection process. 
How this case will turn out remains to be seen.  The Washington State Supreme Court’s decision is only one of the pieces of information that the U.S. District Court will consider.  Of course, however that District Court decision turns it, it might also be appealed.  I suspect that in the long run decisions like this one one will be overturned, not because of any change in law or ideology, but because judges and justices will  become more internet savvy over time.  Sadly, this process could take another decade or two.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Asking About Life, Part 4

On May 5th, in Tennessee, logic and reason won a small victory, however fleeting it may be. The Knox County school board in that fine state voted 6-3 to retain a challenged biology textbook titled Asking About Life.  News coverage of the vote was released within a few hours on,, and

The father of a high school student had challenged the use of the textbook in the school’s honors Biology program because on one page, out of over 900, the book defined Creationism as a “biblical myth.”  In response to his initial challenge, a review committee was set up. But when that committee recommended keeping the book, the father appealed to the school board.  The school board has now also voted to keep the book, and the father has indicated he may appeal further, although it is not clear to whom.

This follows the ever-so-typical pattern of book challenges in public schools: 1) a parent overreacts to excerpts without considering the work as a whole, 2) the parent challenges the book without reasonable justification, 3) a review committee is formed and recommends keeping the book, then 4) the school board ignores the recommendations of the experts and bans the book anyway.  By luck or logic, I don’t know which, step four turned out differently this time.
The cash-strapped school district could ill afford to replace the textbook at present.  The district was already planning to replace the textbook at some unknown future date, whenever regular funding next became available. It is not clear whether that would have entailed an upgrade to the next edition of the same textbook or a different title altogether. Nor is it clear how the present challenge will affect that decision, if and when the funding to replace the book does become available.

What the textbook actually says on the offending page (I have the book in front of me) is:
“In 1973, antievolutionists in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana passed identical bills calling for ‘equal time’ for teaching evolution and creationism, the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian God in 7 days.  But a court ruled that the ‘equal-time’ bill was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state” [emphasis original].
Some Christian creationists (or are they creationist Christians?) feel this statement unfairly belittles their religion, and that a science textbook shouldn't mention religion at all. But given their all-out assault on science, I don’t think creationists can legitimately claim to be the victims here.  The textbook’s statements are irreproachably fair and accurate.

Of course, the term myth has two slightly different meanings, and a lot of the debate within this book challenge was about which meaning was intended by the authors.  Myth can mean a story that is false. Myth can also mean a story with symbolic and metaphorical meanings that are more important than the story’s factual accuracy, regardless of whether the story is true or not. The latter is the more technically accurate sense of the term, and is the one the authors have said they intended.

The distinction is irrelevant, however, since the Genesis creation story is a myth in both senses.  The vast majority of Christians acknowledge that Genesis is a myth. They recognize that what’s important about it is its spiritual message about the relationship between the human and the divine, and know that it is not, and cannot be, a statement of historical fact. Only a small group of literal-minded fundamentalists claim that the first few chapters of Genesis can be taken as a statement of scientific fact. Genesis says that plants grew on earth before the sun, moon and stars had been created (1:11-17), which is a simple impossibility in several ways. Genesis explicitly states that birds and mammals were created before humankind (1:20-26), then immediately contradicts itself, saying that God created man first (2:7), and created birds and mammals after that (2:18-20). Genesis says that men and women (plural) were created together after all the other life forms (1:26-28), then immediately contradicts itself, saying that God created a man, then birds and mammals, then created a woman out of the man’s rib (2:18-22). Don’t get me started about talking snakes. Calling Genesis a myth is the best thing we can say about it.

I agree that no science textbook should attempt to practice theology, and Asking About Life comes nowhere close to doing that.  What the book does is correctly recount some of the recent history of the teaching of science, a topic that is clearly legitimate within a science textbook. It is completely ridiculous for creationists to cry foul here. Creationists started this fight by trying to turn our officially secular public school system into an instrument for the propagation of faith. They lost that battle, and now want to insist that nobody discuss that loss as the simple historical fact that it is. I realize some won’t like it, but creationists have made their own bed, and now they have to lie in it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Revolutionary Voices

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that on May 4th the Rancocas Valley Board of Education (in New Jersey) banned Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology. The board voted unanimously to pull the book from high school library shelves. In the same meeting, the board voted to retain two other challenged books, Love and Sex: 10 Stories of Truth and The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities. All three titles had been challenged by parents associated with conservative group 9.12.

According to the article, the board consulted attorneys who advised the board that they “had the legal authority to ban books because of obscenity but not on political grounds.” That is stating the obvious, and the board hardly needed to pay legal fees if that’s the only advice they got.  What the article does not make clear is whether or not the lawyers evaluated this particular book to determine whether or not it fell into a category that the board could legally ban.

Having reviewed the book myself, it appears to me that the board has clearly crossed the line into illegal censorship. One can only hope that an aggrieved parent in the school district has the presence of mind to contact the ACLU and sue the school board for infringing upon their First Amendment rights.

Revolutionary Voices was written by youth and for youth. It was designed to give voice to individuals and groups often overlooked in anthologies for queer and questioning youth, specifically “youth of color, young women, transgender and bisexual youth, (dis)abled youth, and poor/working class youth.“  Many of the writers included in the volume have gone on to make a name for themselves as authors. 

This is a serious work with serious literary and social value. As such, it cannot be classified as obscene. A critical legal detail that the school board seems to have overlooked is that the book must be evaluated as a whole, meaning that the decision to ban it cannot be based on isolated excerpts.  Interestingly, the Inquirer describes the opinion of one of the parents who read the book this way:
“She said that for the most part, the stories and material were sensible and in good taste, the sort of thing that might help teenagers struggling to figure out their sexuality. But certain sections of Revolutionary Voices, including a piece about a ‘gay porn star,’ Lange said, were distasteful and ‘without educational value.’”
The parent/reviewer is acknowledging here that the book, as a whole, has serious value. This is the kind of analysis that will come back to haunt the school board, should they be sued on account of their decision.

Shame on the Rancocas Valley Board of Education for kowtowing to a small group bent on controlling public discourse! Once again, a school board earns an “F” in education.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Dim Bulbs Grow Dimmer in Fond du Lac

In my April 13th post I mentioned the supposed end of a perfectly ridiculous challenge to Sonya Sones’ One of those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies. A mother in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, had challenged that book at a school library, and had dug in her heels about it. On that same date, an article in the Fond Du Lac Reporter noted that the challenge had gone through multiple levels, the challenger being unwilling to accept the decision of a review committee and then of the superintendent to keep the book. When the school board also voted to keep the book, the newspaper declared that the “parent's mission to remove a book from Fond du Lac middle schools has ended.” 

This may have been premature.

Those who want to censor books are of many types and have varying motivations, but the Fond Du Lac situation seems increasingly typical of the worst aspects of censors as a group. It starts with a parent who has a tiny sliver of a legitimate complaint: a book that he or she finds objectionable by personal standards. But any hint of reasonableness disappears the moment that parent refuses to accept personal responsibility for his or her personal values. A personal objection becomes a public debate when the parent demands that a public institution, ordinarily bound by the ethics and legalities of Free Speech, impose one person’s values on an entire community. The book is reviewed by others, discussed, and voted on, and (almost always) is retained, which should be a process that educates the challenger about Free Speech in a pluralistic society. But the censors don't get educated by that process. On the contrary, they just get more intransigent. 

And so we come to the May 3rd letter by the same book challenger to the Fond Du Lac Reporter, in which she repeats the empty platitudes we’ve seen in so many failed challenges elsewhere. “It was never about ‘banning books,’” she declares, even as she tries to ban books, apparently comprehending neither the meaning of the word “ban” nor the gravity of her demand. She writes, “I realize there are parents who disagree with me,” and adds “to them, I say your children can visit the public library for that type of book.” Here we see the very essence of the censors’ worldview, a belief that a whole community should have the job of avoiding offense to the peculiar sensitivities of one individual. Of course, both ethics and the law demand exactly the opposite, that especially sensitive individuals should take steps to shield themselves from unwelcome materials, without burdening the community at large. But a censor cannot be bothered with such facts.

Undeterred by three levels of failure, the letter-writer points to a petition she is now circulating.  Her petition is shockingly inane, revealing a lack of thought that is nearly absolute.  It reads, in its entirety:

Could she have been more hopelessly vague? How many people will be on her proposed committee? With what qualifications? Will they be elected or appointed?  By whom? Will they be paid for their services? To whom will they report? Are their findings to be final or will they only be suggestions? What guidelines will they follow to decide which books the school should acquire and which the school should not? Who will get to define those guidelines? Similar questions are instantly apparent for the rating system she fails to define. Who will rate the books? Into how many categories will books be rated? What specific characteristics will determine the rating category into which a book is placed? Who will decide on the number of categories and define the characteristics of each category? How will a book’s rating be communicated to a potential reader? Will it affect a potential reader’s borrowing privileges? If so, how?

An inability or unwillingness to think logically is part of most censorship attempts at every step, and the Fond Du Lac situation is certainly no exception. That refusal to think is present at the beginning of every challenge, when someone first makes an unrealistic assessment of the offensiveness or harmfulness of a piece of literature. It’s present every time book challengers refuse to recognize that they don’t have a right to dictate public policy or refuse to acknowledge what the law plainly says about Free Speech. It’s present when censors insist that review committees and rating systems are simple, uncomplicated things, and can't be bothered to get specific about what they really want. Censors just don’t think. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Deal With It!

For over a decade Deal With It has been high on the hit list of censors across America.  Among their various claims, varying from the exaggerated to the dishonest to the deranged, are that the book contains “graphic” or “explicit” depictions of sex, or that it promotes teenage sex, abortion, and homosexuality.

As usual, on actually reviewing the book, I find myself wondering whether the censors ever opened the cover.  And if they actually did consider the contents of the book, I can’t help but wonder at the bizarre notions of human nature and human sexuality the censors must be living with.

Deal With It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a Gurl, written by Esther Drill, Heather McDonald, and Rebecca Odes, and first published in 1999, is a book of information about health, puberty, and sex for teenage and pre-teen girls. A limited preview can be seen on, and the most controversial parts of the text, taken completely out of context and anything but a fair representation of the book as a whole, can be found at  The book is a distillation of information accumulated over several years on, a website that continues to be active and useful.   

Frankly, the front cover is the most provocative part of the book. It shows a young woman with her back to the reader, holding her raincoat open (but faced away from the reader), in what many would take to be a “flasher” pose.  This is an overleaf attached to the front cover, and when this is opened the figure is reversed, revealing that the “flasher” is not nude, but is wearing either a bikini or bra and panties.

That is the totality of any luridness or salaciousness in the book. The rest is information, practical, useful and technically accurate, presented with fairness and balance. In fact, the text is dense by the standards of young readers, so much so that pre-teens and even some young teens are just not that likely to read it.

Illustrations are both minimal and minimalist. There are technical drawings of both male and female genitalia, rendered as monochrome line-drawings with the usual scientific names of the parts.  There are a total of three illustrations of sexual positions, which are made up of black-and-white stick figures, lacking any detail.

The informational content of the book is exactly focused on the issues of bodily and emotional changes that most teenage girls have concerns about. It’s about: breast development and brassieres, acne, body hair and how to deal with it, menstruation, sex, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, what to expect in the gynecologist’s office, etc. There are also sections on mental health, drugs and drug use, self-esteem, healthy boundaries, emotions, relationships, and the like.

 Deal With It is empowering, because knowledge is power, but it doesn’t “promote” anything. The emphasis throughout the book is on balanced and factual completeness, not on any particular ideology.  That means that, for example, methods for controlling pregnancy and the transmission of disease are discussed, in terms of both their effectiveness and failures. The effects of recreational drugs are described, but so are their risks. Room is made for consideration of individual values and religious beliefs, without promoting or denigrating them.  A few quotes illustrate this balance:

“When it comes to protection from sexually transmitted diseases, the only truly safe sex is no sex at all (or sex with yourself only).  Any sex with another person introduces an element of risk” (p. 108).

“If you’re sexually active, there is a chance that you will get pregnant, no matter which birth control method you use.  The possibility is higher or lower depending on which method of birth control you use.  But know that no birth control method, except abstinence, is 100 percent effective” (p. 121).

“If you’re sure that you’re pregnant, you have to make a relatively quick decision about whether you will continue the pregnancy.  For some people, there is no decision to make.  Their religious, moral, or personal beliefs make it unthinkable to intentionally terminate a pregnancy” (p. 124).

Is there any valid legal principle that would allow this book to be banned or restricted anywhere? No. Not at all.  There is nothing in the least bit prurient about the book, and it clearly has serious value, both to minors and adults. By definition, then, the book is neither obscene nor “harmful to minors.” So far is the law is concerned, this book can be handed out to five-year-olds (not that they’d be able to read it).

Some parents won’t want their daughters to have the information in this book, in spite of its fairness, balance, and accuracy.  They are entitled to make that personal decision, although they’re deluding themselves if they think they’re protecting their daughters from the “promotion” or “encouragement” of anything, or a challenge to the values of one or another religion. Parents who would withhold this book are those who believe that their children, and society as a whole, are better served by knowing less, which is exactly why those particular parents should not be allowed to make this kind of decision for anybody else’s children.
Banning or restricting access to this book is just ignorance striving to beget ignorance.