February 19, 1948, p.7
PCA Challenges School Ban On Hobson, Miller Novels
The two school officials who banned two best-selling novels which attack anti-Semitism were charged today to answer publicly five questions asked by Howard Fast, chairman of the Literature Division of the Progressive Citizens of America.
Addressing himself to Dr. John V. Walsh, the principal of DeWitt Clinton High School, who banned Arthur Miller's Focus and Laura Z. Hobson's Gentleman's Agreement, and Frederic Ernst, the associate superintendent who backed the action, Fast said:
"The PCA Literature Division does not wish to substitute one form of intolerance for another, and acknowledges the possibility that what has the effect of an attack on civil liberties may only have been the product of carelessness and vanishing vigilance. Therefore we reserve judgment of these men until their answers to the following questions are forthcoming, or - if such should be the case - their own silence condemns them."
Fast's questions follow:
- "Wouldn't you say, Dr. Walsh, that your statement 'we believe Focus offensive to the Catholic Church,' is truly offensive to the Church? Since the author, Mr. Miller, does not attempt to expose a link, nor claim that such a link exists, between the Catholic Church and the Christian Front, and since the inference of such a relationship is carried in your remarks, it would appear that you have libeled the Church, not Mr. Miller.
- "Has the Catholic Church, to your knowledge, publicly condemned Focus? And in the event that such is not the case, have you taken it upon yourself to speak for the Church?
- "Have you, Mr. Ernst, attempted to remove from the school libraries of New York City, all those books which might be objectively censored for 'light sex passages?' If so, may we ask why the works of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Omar Khayyam and the Bible were overlooked?
- "Wouldn't you say, Mr. Ernst, that the subject matter of both these novels, anti-Semitism, is of great importance today, and underlinedly so as concerns high school readers?
- "May we ask of both of you gentlemen, why this curious coincidence? Why the banning of the novels, both of which have proved themselves successful foes of anti-Semitism?"