Austin School Stands Up For Intellectual Freedom

“Books and ideas are the most effective weapons
against intolerance and ignorance.”
—Lyndon Baines Johnson
Donor Pledge Returned to Sender
How much is intellectual freedom worth? For one Texas school, it's priceless

When St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Austin, Tex., was faced with an ultimatum—pull Annie Proulx's short story "Brokeback Mountain" from its reading list or lose a $3-million donation to its building fund—school officials chose to give up the money. That decision is reverberating far beyond Austin. Writers from around the country have been so inspired by the school's actions that they've formed a group of young adult authors called AS IF! (Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom).

Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, said schools are often challenged on controversial books, but that the St. Andrew's situation may be unique. "Too often the first instinct is to avoid controversy by withdrawing the title," he said. "The idea that this school rejected a demand to pull a book and was willing to lose money over it is truly astonishing and very gratifying. I don't know of another case where money has been at issue like this."