Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 23, 2014

Censoring film bad press for Fairfield

By Roger Kubik | Nov 08, 2012

To the editor:

The Sondheim’s censoring of Gilbert’s film went national, including this wnd.com reader comment: “I think Stephen would be sad at what has taken place in Fairfield with the theater that bare [bears] his name!”

Fairfield’s image is damaged by this hiccup on first amendment rights from an apparent imposition of partisan incited controversy. Buying into an elected official’s apparent influence on first amendment rights was wrong. Apparently for what was deemed negative about a particular presidential candidate. The idea that it was contentious is subjective or at best moot, since every political viewpoint can be deemed contentious. Isn’t it precisely because it’s a nonprofit that this film should not have been canceled? Wasn’t it a no brainer? Is it FACC’s burden to prove that it’s within nonprofit rules to cancel? Not the sponsor’s burden to prove otherwise?

Perhaps it’s because partisan politics hasn’t demanded censoring as this did by the very party affiliates and representatives that enjoyed unparalleled unchallenged freedom of expression for years. Perhaps it’s why nonprofit laws are specific to not advocate, to be nonpartisan, to provide equal opportunity and treatment for opposing political views and programming, particularly around an election. Doesn’t it seem that this very act of canceling is essentially advocating for the candidate?

The theater’s projector owner withdrew his rental agreement. How convenient! In addition, I question an apparent pretext to check legal requirements. FACC was right to reschedule. But does, then, to a small meeting room comply with nonprofit equal opportunity and equal treatment rules?

The Sondheim has hosted several politically sensitive programs, including a week before. Had any of those been so challenged? A politically sensitive 9/11 conspiracy theory film shown at the library exhibited far less research, with no complaints or intervention by the mayor and others. Some Fairfielders deem that film offensive, negative, untruthful, contentious, but nevertheless respect constitutional rights.

Putting aside the film’s political implication, one doesn’t have to agree with Gilbert’s extensive research. People have individual choice to attend. That’s enough. Canceling it, even with disregard to the local sponsor’s budget and prepaid expenses to boot, turned out to have far worse consequences than letting the man come and personally show his film as scheduled for those sincerely interested in another viewpoint and to personally challenge its veracity. For him to not have that opportunity to field questions was a loss for everyone, regardless of political leaning.

Gilbert had every right to call it censoring. It’s enough to impartially stand up for nonprofit rules from the outset of partisan demands. To convene to clarify and rehash its policy is not a proper excuse to stall. FACC could have posted a disclaimer any time. Instead — a black mark on Fairfield and the Sondheim.

Our forefathers came here to grant us the liberties they didn’t have and a Constitution to keep them intact, and now you want to take it away from us. I’ve never supported progressive ideology, only free speech for all ideologies. This is what keeps us free.

 

— Roger Kubik, Birmingham

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