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April 11, 2013

Free speech group ‘honors’ attempts to censor

RICHMOND, Va. — Idaho regulators who banned the sale of Five Wives Vodka out of fear of offending tee-totaling Mormons and a Missouri legislator who wanted to make it a felony to even propose gun control legislation are among the 2013 winners of the annual anti-censorship “Jefferson Muzzles.”

The dubious honors announced Thursday also include an Oklahoma school board that ordered a 5-year-old to turn his T-shirt inside-out because it featured the logo of an out-of-state university and a congressman who refused a request by a celebrated West Virginia activist to show a 5-year-old girl bathing in waters fouled by mountaintop removal mining.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression released its 22nd list of the always egregious, occasionally frightening and often amusing affronts to free speech, winnowing the winners from hundreds of nominations.

Josh Wheeler, director of the Charlottesville center, said this year’s edition was distinctive for its diversity. “People from all over the political spectrum are willing to censor,” he said Wednesday.

The awards are announced each year on or near the April 13 birthday of Jefferson, a free-speech advocate and the nation’s third president. Winners get a T-shirt with Jefferson’s likeness and a black rectangle over his mouth.

Education and politics captured the majority of this year’s Muzzles. They included both major political parties for ignoring evenly divided voice votes at their national conventions, each time allowing party leaders to proclaim the outcome they had sought.

At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the vote involved restoring references to God and the designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. They were restored, despite several voice votes showing delegates evenly divided, even though a two-thirds majority was required.

The Republican National Convention, held in Tampa, Fla., earned its Muzzle for adopting rules proposed by the campaign of eventual nominee Mitt Romney that would tilt future conventions to establishment nominees. It was opposed by many delegates, including Ron Paul supporters, but the new rules were declared passed by House Speaker John Boehner despite a convention floor that appeared to be divided.

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