Danger in censorship

By  Dominique Bennett, Youth Speak News
  • March 16, 2009
Although we live in a society that is growing increasingly accepting and we are able to discuss subjects that may be perceived as controversial, the amount of censorship that is still alive and thriving enrages me.

I can’t even read a novel such as The Wars or The Coldest Winter Ever without hearing criticism about how graphic or inappropriate the material is. I believe that controversy over a topic is the beginning of contemplation, discussion and eventually acceptance.

Even the Bible speaks out against censorship, saying “be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace” (Acts 18:9) which is why the extensive amount of censorship in Catholic schools is so angering.

While leading Senator O’Connor College School’s African Heritage Committee, my committee and I were discouraged in our attempt to hold an HIV/AIDS rally to raise awareness on the epidemic in Africa, raise funds to assist in the cure and educate students on how to prevent receiving the virus. This would have included discussing what sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS are and how to prevent them, including the use of condoms, getting tested, communicating with your partner and a trusted adult, but above all practising abstinence.

Of course discussing prevention would include acknowledging that some teens are sexually active, but as Catholics we aren’t allowed to be so realistic. We are all aware that sex before marriage is morally wrong, yet as Christians don’t we have a moral obligation to reach out to those who are vulnerable and at risk? Censoring the topic of HIV/AIDS is denying our moral duties and allowing more young people to become exposed to the virus.

I believe that high percentages of sexually active youth are caused by conservative Catholic families where there is little to no discussion of sex or sexuality, which is why the HIV/AIDS rally was so important to me. The media has the largest influence on our youth and if churches, schools or parents refuse to discuss touchy topics with young people, they will, without a doubt, receive the information from the media. If we as Catholics aren’t willing to openly discuss these topics they will continue to be ignored and only acknowledged by the secular world, giving youth the wrong perspective.

I understand that Catholic schools in Ontario are under a microscope right now and any wrong move can put us in jeopardy, yet this does not justify failing to completely educate students. This is exactly what is occurring when we do not discuss real life and controversial issues. Potter Stewart, a past associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, said “censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”

While writing this column I was wondering about certain opinions that I should not include, fearing that readers may become offended. Yet in keeping quiet out of fear that the public will scrutinize us for our openness to reality, we are only putting our youth in danger and falling captive to the secular world.

(Bennett, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Senator O’Connor College School in Toronto.)

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