Don't Use Violent Incidents as Excuse for Censorship, Congress is Urged

People For the American Way today urged Congress not to use recent isolated incidents of tragic violence as a political tool to impose government censorship on the music industry.

"We can't save our children from harm by having the government control what they can see and hear," said Carole Shields, President of People For the American Way. "There are no shortcuts for raising children. Today's children can only be saved the old-fashioned way - one at a time - by the parents and other adults who are entrusted with helping guide them to safe adulthood."

"All of us are deeply saddened whenever tragedy strikes, especially when it involves children," Shields said. "We must look for answers, but we must not delude ourselves into thinking that there is any single cause or any easy solution that could prevent such tragedies from ever happening."

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, recently announced plans to chair a Senate Commerce Committee meeting this afternoon to examine the effect of music advisory labels. The hearing comes at a time when some members of Congress reportedly are considering imposing government regulation over the music industry. The industry currently operates under a voluntary system in which some music bears a parental warning label.

Such legislation would likely be counterproductive, People For the American Way warned. "Turning some music into forbidden fruit could well increase children's appetite for it," said Elliot Mincberg, Vice President and Legal Director of People For the American Way. "In addition, by forcing children to be more secretive about their interest in this music, it would decrease the opportunity for parents to intervene and to teach their children countervailing messages and values."

Mincberg added that the witness list for today's hearing includes no representatives from civil liberties groups. "People For the American Way, along with other civil liberties groups, requested the opportunity to testify, but our request was not heeded," Mincberg said. "Senator Brownback's hearing could have benefitted from the perspectives a broader array of witnesses would have brought to the table."

"The only reliable safety net for our children is the network of adults around them," Shields said. "It's up to us to stay aware of what our children are doing, of what the influences are in their lives, and to intercede personally when necessary to keep them out of harm's way."

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