April 06, 2009 02:14pm
Censored in Maryland
by: Mike Dickinson
Missing in the censorship debate over the screening of ''Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge'' at the University of Maryland, is the tale of how state lawmakers act as a censor by allowing state universities to act as tax collectors and money launderers.
When students enroll in any public college or university they must pay a student activity fee. It’s essentially a tax as the state legislature allows the university to act as if it were the mafia. Paying this ''fee'' or tax is not a choice students have. The payment of the fee is mandatory and students have no choice where the money they are forced to pay goes. All the cash ends up in a great big pot which is then distributed by the student government amongst student organizations and student interests. This is fine and dandy, but problems erupt when any money collected using state granted taxation power goes to support religious organizations.
This is the problem at the University of Maryland. I applaud Digital Playground’s decision to show the film for free at universities and colleges throughout the country. The problem here is that many state legislators are lining up to torpedo the students by cutting off any state funding to state universities that screen adult films. Yet, while these state legislators thump their chest and stomp their feet, they allow the real problem to persist. Students who want the right to watch adult films are punished, but yet the state legislature whole-heartedly allows the state to collect money and use it to promote religion.
''I don't believe in censorship, but at the same time, I don't think that film was appropriate in a state building on a state campus,'' Maryland Senate President Mike Miller said in US News. A quick review of the University of Maryland Student Activities website reveals that the same state legislature that wants to determine what is ''appropriate'' or not in a state building, has no problem allowing the university to thuggishly collect money to support organized religion and letting those religious organizations use state buildings on state campuses without punishing students by withholding state funding.
A partial list of religious groups operating and receiving student funding at the University of Maryland includes; the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Christians on Campus, Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Maryland Christian Fellowship, and the University Bible Fellowship.
Maryland State Representative Andrew Harris said, ''That's really not what Maryland residents send their young students to college campus for, to view pornography.'' Well they don’t send them to be forced to pay for religious groups either, if they wanted that they’d have sent their kids to a religious school such as Liberty University (created by Jerry Falwell) or Regent University (created by Pat Robertson).
It is very clear that in state or national government there is to be a separation of church and state and that the government may not support or favor any religion. For example, the State of Maryland could not directly say, Christianity or some religion must have a presence on state supported campuses. So instead of the state collecting the money directly from the students, they grant the power to the universities, let them determine where it goes, then when/if the university uses it for something the legislature doesn’t like they complain and threaten to withhold state funds. Basically, the State of Maryland is running a big money laundering operation that ends with the state supporting organized religion.
Free speech is free speech. The real issue at hand is not if students make a decision to go to see the film, but if state legislators wake up and realize, that they cannot be the judge of what is good speech or bad speech, and just because they disagree with it, doesn’t make it bad speech. In a public setting with public dollars it’s either all forms of speech (religion, adult, etc) in and fair game, or all forms of speech out.
Exercise your rights to tell the elected officials what you think:
Maryland Senate President Mike Miller Thomas.V.Mike.Miller@senate.state.MD.us
Maryland State Representative Andrew Harris firstname.lastname@example.org.MD.us
Better yet, write a letter the editor of the University of Maryland Student Newspaper: email@example.com