The Anne Frank Center here has joined the mounting national protest against a Federal court ruling last week that upheld the right of a group of Christian fundamentalist parents in Greeneville, Tenn. to keep their children out of the local public school when “The Diary of Anne Frank,” among a long list of other books, was read in classrooms as part of the curriculum.
The decision by Judge Thomas Hull on October 24 that the parents had the right to protect their children from what they consider “Godless” influences and teach them to read at home, shocked academic, legal, publishing and religious circles all over the country.
“The Diary of Ann Frank,” along with such classics as “The Wizard of Oz,” was found objectionable by the parents because they stress humanitarian values and deem all religious to be of equal value, an anathema to the religious right. All of the books cited in the case are part of a basic reading series published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
At a press conference at The Netherlands Club here Thursday morning, the Anne Frank Center stated that it “joins with national and international leaders to condemn attempts to ban ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ and other books from public schools and libraries. The Center calls for the reaffirmation of the ‘Diary’ as a vital tool for education and understanding.”
Joining in the appeal were W. Thomas Osborne, U. S. Director of the Anne Frank Foundation; The Hon. Joop Den Uyl. former Prime Minister of the Netherlands; Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY); Mayor Edward Koch of New York; Bishop Philip Cousin, president of the National Council of Churches; Rabbi Mark Tanenbaum. International Director of the American Jewish Committee; and a group of prominent actors, playwrights and authors.
Eli Wallach, the actor, who performed in the stage version of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the press conference that “to counter this thing” he would work with the Center to help raise funds to pay legal expenses to appeal Hull’s decision. Wallach said the Tennessee ruling was a blow to pluralism in American schools. “Could you imagine if a Jewish or Moslem child” refused to read books considered objectionable? he asked. In reply to a question, he said he believed the Reagan Administration contributed to the Tennessee case by its indication “that the left — liberals — have been forbidding religion in the schools.”
Sheldon Harnick, lyricist of “Fiddler on the Roof,” and playwrights Wendy Wasserstein and Christopher Durang, affirmed their determination to speak out on behalf of “Anne Frank” as well as the freedom to read and learn in accordance with the liberties guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
Johanna Reiss, author of “The Upstairs Room,” a book about her own experiences as a Jewish child hiding in Holland during the war, said “I wonder if our children are not supposed to know there really was a World War II.” She said her book has been removed from libraries in the South.
Osborne observed, “The message of Anne Frank… has lifted her up as a symbol of one among millions, and as an innocent child among the worst censorship … the contents of her message (is) that she sees goodness in humanity.”
Osborne added, “America is not a Christian nation. That’s a dangerous proposition for anyone to put forth. America is a safe haven for Christian believers and people of all faiths…”
He said donations to help the Anne Frank Center can be sent to the Center at 245 East 60th Street, New York 10022.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.