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2013 Muzzle Awards — The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression

2013 Muzzles Gothic chalk drawing

Since 1992, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has celebrated the birth and ideals of its namesake by calling attention to those who in the past year forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that ‘freedom of speech cannot be limited without being lost.’

The 2013 Muzzle Awards were awarded on April 11, 2013 to:

  • The Annville-Cleona (PA) School Board, for removing the illustrated children's book The Dirty Cowboy from its elementary school library after one student's parents objected to the book's illustrations depicting a cowboy's efforts to reclaim the clothing taken by a dog as the cowboy bathed in a river. Although the cowboy is depicted without his clothes, the book shows no nudity. The whimsical illustrations cleverly obscure the cowboy's “private parts” with various items including a boot, a flock of birds, a frog, and more.

  • Prague (OK) High School Principal David Smith, for withholding the diploma of the school's valedictorian after she said the word “hell” in her commencement speech at a school that proudly declares itself “the home of the Red Devils” and has a devil as its school logo. Smith maintains that Kaitlin Nootbaar can have her diploma as soon as she writes a letter of apology to him, the school board, and all her teachers.

  • Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education, for forcing 5-year-old Cooper Barton to turn his University of Michigan t-shirt inside out because it was in violation of a school policy dictating that students may only wear apparel with logos or emblems of Oklahoma colleges.

  • The North Carolina General Assembly, for amending an existing anti-bullying law designed to protect students so that it now prohibits students from making online comments that are critical of their teachers or other school officials.

  • The Idaho State Liquor Division, for its ban on the sale of Five Wives Vodka in the state. The Liquor Division justified the ban on grounds that Five Wives might be deemed offensive to “a prominent segment” of the state's population.

  • Missouri State Representative Mike Leara, for introducing a bill that would make it a felony for state lawmakers merely to propose any piece of legislation “that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the Second Amendment.”

  • The Democratic and Republican National Committees, for effectively negating the voices of half of their respective conventions' delegates. At both conventions, delegates were asked to participate in voice votes to decide questions of party policy. In both cases, the “ayes” and “nays” appeared evenly split but party leadership nevertheless declared that its desired outcome had won the vote.

  • Maryland State Delegate Emmett C. Burns, Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston, Mayor Edwin Lee of San Francisco, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Joe Moreno of Chicago, for using their status as elected officials to intimidate or threaten those who expressed views different than their own on the issue of same-sex marriage.

  • U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, Chair, House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, for refusing to allow environmental activist Maria Gunnoe to show a photograph depicting a five-year-old girl bathing in murky water contaminated by mountaintop removal mining as part of her testimony before the committee. Although he never saw the photograph, Lamborn approved a staffer's recommendation to remove the image from Gunnoe's presentation. A member of Lamborn's staff then informed Capitol Police that Gunnoe might be in possession of child pornography. Gunnoe was interrogated for almost an hour before being released. No charges were filed.

The First Amendment Monument

Charlottesville, VA

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