FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. The Okaloosa County School Board has rejected a Destin minister’s request to ban a popular Revolutionary War novel for young adults because of obscene language and what he said was a negative approach to God.
The board April 8 unanimously voted to keep My Brother Sam is Dead in middle school classrooms.
The book by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier, first published in 1974, ranked 12th on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books during the 1990s.
The Rev. Joseph Rogers, pastor of Destin Assembly of God, challenged the novel after his eighth-grade son was assigned to read it at Destin Middle School.
“This is not about censorship, and it’s not about First Amendment rights,” Rogers told the board. He argued that it was a matter of taste and whether the schools should “endorse the use of profanity,” drawing applause from his supporters.
Teachers and school administrators were joined by a high school student, who cited intellectual freedom, in speaking against removing the book.
School Superintendent Don Gaetz said banning one book could pave the way for removal of classics by such authors as William Shakespeare, who used profanity in his plays.
Board member Howard Hill, an Air Force veteran who was shot down in Vietnam, defended the language, saying a realistic portrayal of war includes profanity.
“Combat can reduce men to their baser levels,” Hill said.