"A Free Press" is a Right under the First Amendment, and book banning has no place in a country founded upon the freedom of ideas. The only argument that's even plausible is that parents want to protect children from what they consider to be harmful publications; in that case, however, why not restrict a minor child's access to those books, keep them under lock and key, and require parental consent for access? Why should parents pressure libraries to physically remove them, and deny access to those who may want their child to read them? This is the wrong way to go.
Fortunately, that appears to be the extent of banning in the US. However, left unchecked, book banning can lead to book burning, notably expressed by the Nazis in the 1930's.
If you don't like a book's ideas, you have a perfect right not to agree. You have no right to destroy or restrict the work from another adult.
A favorite example is the banning of Huck Finn. First, it was banned in the 1800's because it showed a white boy fraternizing with a black slave; In the 1900's it was banned for being "politically incorrect" by using the word "nigger." Twain wasn't trying to offend delicate sensibilities; that was a word in use in his day. Similarly, Huck and Jim's relationship seems perfectly fine to us, but was abominable to some of those in late Victorian times. It's important not to overlay our cultural biases upon earlier works, but to appreciate and see them in their own cultural context. Usually, if given an open, honest reading, you'll see how far we've come.
The ALA (American Library Association) has a pretty comprehensive list(s) of frequently challenged books. These books are often banned by school boards, parents, libraries, religious groups, and political groups for a wide variety of reasons from language to controversial topics. The ALA website has wonderful resources all about book banning. I am including the link to the section of the website about frequently challenged books (click on the links for lists of titles and reasons for being challenged). Explore the site a little for more information on banned and challenged books.
Fear seems to be one reason many books are banned. People fear new ideas being expressed when those ideas run counter to the beliefs held by a majority of the powerstructure such as sociey or government. People fear ideas being expressed because they could corrupt such as changing ideas on marital issues, sexuality, spirituality, and etc. As if an individual’s ability to think for himself or herself cannot withstand the onslaught of literature. I could go on, but the other posts have really addressed the issue in a well rounded way. I just thought fear should be considered as a factor.
In America's recent past, libraries, book sellers, and school districts banned books. While that is not so common anymore, the reasoning behind it was often that the books contained so many seemingly objectionable elements that institutions felt the need to remove them from circulation. Particularly with school districts, books are banned because parents complain about the books exposing their children to elements of society that they want to shelter their children from or that they simply don't agree with. Several books that have been banned in the past and still are by some school districts are:
Of Mice and Men (for language)
Huck Finn (for racist language)
A Brave New World (for sexual references)
The Golden Compass (for religious purposes)
In the contemporary United States, book banning drives are typically launched by conservative groups, perhaps churches or political action organizations, in an effort to have literature removed from school or public libraries that the groups deem immoral and offensive.
A recent example of books that some conservative groups find objectionable is the Harry Potter series. Church leaders characterize the books as promoting witchcraft. In fact, the books are a form of fantasy literature, requiring the willing suspension of disbelief on the reader’s part in order to create a setting that includes wizards and other supernatural beings. Creation of this setting does not, in my opinion, mean that the author is promoting that readers practice witchcraft themselves.
The banning of books can be done to consolidate centralized power. In the case of Rushdie's work mentioned above, its banning was seen as a way to strengthen power of politicians and religious leaders who used Rushdie's work as a rallying point. For the most part, banning books occurs when leaders are threatened and seek out an outside source gain control and the target of their angst is literature. When books are banned, it is only done so as a fear of freedom.
Let me give you a perspective from Roman history. At times the Romans, a generally tolerant people, banned books. They banned religious books. The reason for this is not hard to find. At times religion can be subversive to governments. For this reason, the Roman banned books.
The book of Acts also has a book burning. Magical texts were destroyed when people turned to a new religion.
Many books have been banned by many organizations over the years. Here are some answers for you:
- Books are banned largely because people object to their content. Some things that most often lead to calls for a book to be banned include
- Sexual content, especially in books aimed at teens or younger
- Racial slurs, as in "Huck Finn."
- Bans are usually enacted by local libraries or by school districts or individual schools.
- The American Library Association has a list of frequently banned books. Here's a link:
Books contain and carry thoughts and ideas which may appear as dangerously subversive, subverting established social-moral-political conventions. Books may be found outrageous/offensive to some religious faith or inciting anti-state activiies.
Books are banned by authorities, both secular and religious, may be the Church or the State.
Salman Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses' was banned by the Islamic fundamentalists for religious reasons. D.H. Lawrence's 'The Lady Chatterley's Lover' was banned for moral reasons.