Rep. Bernie Sanders
Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is sponsoring a Congressional Town Meeting on Civil Liberties, co-hosted by the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, on Sunday, August 17, at 7:00 p.m. The forum, to be held at the First Baptist Church of Manchester, will examine civil liberties in the U.S. in the wake of 9/11. Sanders will be joined by panelists Ed Morrow, co-owner of Northshire Bookstore; Trina Magi, president of the Vermont Librarians Association; Ben Scotch, former executive director of the Vermont ACLU; and Zachary Marcus, marketing director of Northshire Bookstore and a member of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. Each panelist will speak briefly on the issue and then the floor will be open to the audience for questions and discussion.
In a letter inviting Vermonters to the town meeting, Rep. Sanders explained that the focus of the meeting will be the Freedom to Read Protection Act (H.R. 1157), which, he explained, "would protect libraries and bookstores from certain provisions of the USA Patriot Act." He also iterated that "Americans' right to read and purchase books without the fear of government monitoring has always been a centerpiece of our democracy. The USA Patriot Act puts this cornerstone of our freedom in jeopardy. In my view, we must be vigilant in protecting the American people from terrorism, but we must be equally vigilant in protecting the basic constitutional rights which make us a free country."
The Patriot Act gives the FBI vastly expanded authority to search business records, including the records of bookstores and libraries. Sanders' proposed bill continues to garner support within the House. For more on the Freedom to Read Protection Act and the bill's co-sponors, click here.
The goal of the meeting, explained Northshire Bookstore's Marcus, is to "get people out to discuss, learn, and debate the issue, and to explore how our reasonable desires for safety and security in our homeland are interacting with historically hard-won protections for individual rights and liberty." He added, "We hope to forge new wisdom that will lead to greater security and liberty for all Americans." --Karen Schechner