Censorship at the Department of Education? I don't think so

According to today's Boston Globe, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, "denounced PBS yesterday for spending public money on a cartoon with lesbian characters, saying many parents would not want their children exposed to such lifestyles." Christian Grantham,a good friend of this blog, believes that with this act, "the Bush Administration has brought censorship to a national level."

The Bush Administration is doing no such thing. According to dictionary.com, censorship means "deleting parts of publications or correspondence or theatrical performances." The Education Department is not deleting parts of this program, the "Sugartime!" episode of "POSTCARDS FROM BUSTER." It is not even preventing its broadcast. The Boston Globe notes that PBS's Boston affiliate, WGBH, "plans to air the episode on March 23."

All that Secretary Spellings has done is request that PBS return the money (i.e., the taxpayers' money) because the episode in question "does not fulfill the intent Congress had in mind. By law, she said, any funded shows must give top attention to 'research-based educational objectives, content, and materials.'"

If taking government money away were censoring, then HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg and I favor censoring Maggie Gallagher since neither she nor I believe that the federal government should be paying her to promote President Bush's initiatives. Well, I don't believe in censoring Maggie Gallagher. Or even Winnie Stachelberg or Andrew Sullivan for that matter. For my part, while I disagree with many of Maggie Gallagher's views on gay people, I agree that she has the right to express them. I just don't want to be the one paying her.

That very Boston Globe article reports that the Education Department "has awarded nearly $100 million to PBS through the program over the past five years in a contract that expires in September." If the federal government is going to be doling out money for education, shouldn't that money be spent to pay teachers' salaries and repair aging infrastructure? Liberals repeat the mantra time and time again that our schools don't have enough money to for essential classroom supplies. And that teachers' salaries are too low. And that school buildings are crumbling. And here we have the government funding TV programs!

No, the Bush Administration has not brought censorship to a new level. If withholding federal funding from a TV program were censorship, then the Bush Administration would be guilty of censoring Sponge Bob since, as far as I know, the federal government does not support that show.

Critics are right to fault Ms. Spellings for singling out this one episode. But, the Education Secretary is right that many parents "would not want their children exposed to such lifestyles." And that's the problem with federal funding because you and I foot the bill of the federal government. When it funds political pundits or television programs, it is bound to be supporting a program or a viewpoint that a large group of citizens finds objectionable.

Gay citizens find objectionable the federal government's support of Maggie Gallagher. Social conservatives would find objectionable the federal government's support of this TV program. Let's make both sides happy and get the government out of the media business and let individual Americans pay for the pundits they want to read and the programs they want to watch.

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