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Dispute in Enfield Over Michael Moore Film Screening

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ENFIELD, Conn. (AP) _ The Enfield Public Library has canceled a screening of the Michael Moore documentary “Sicko” about the American health care system under pressure from the town council and mayor, leading to accusations of censorship.

The screening was canceled Wednesday, a day after a resident complained about the film. Several councilors also objected to the film, which praises government-run health care.

Republican Mayor Scott Kaupin asked the town manager to talk to library Director Henry Dutcher, who said he was told by the town manager to cancel the screening. Kaupin said the decision to show the movie was stupid and threatened the library’s funding.
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`The sentiment by the majority is that it’s a poor choice and that they should definitely reconsider,” Kaupin told the Journal Inquirer.

Dutcher said he could not remember when the council last intervened in the library’s programming and had a film pulled.

Democratic Councilor Cynthia Mangini called it censorship and compared it to banning books.

Peter Chase, chairman of the Connecticut Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, called the decision “absolutely deplorable.”

“The health care debate in America is exactly the kind of controversial issue that people need information on, and this is exactly what the public library should be doing,” he said. “Can you imagine what would happen to state libraries if individual town governments could just withdraw the materials they didn’t like?”

Moore’s film prompted an argument in May at a Missouri high school. A student in St. Charles County filed a complaint after a teacher failed to get administrative approval before using “Sicko” as part of a final exam.

The student said she didn’t believe it was right for students to hear only one side of the debate. The school district said the matter would be handled in the teacher evaluation process.

The screening of Moore’s 2007 Academy Award-nominated documentary that critiqued the American health care system, was to have been part of the Enfield library’s new nonfiction film series.

Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said “a free society like ours suffers when government officials like the mayor take this type of action.

“The government should never take action that limits the public’s access to information or ideas,” Schneider said.

Dutcher said the Moore film was the second in an occasional series of nonfiction films chosen by his staff featuring subjects including health care, education and the environment. The first film, A PBS “Frontline” documentary about health care called “Sick Around the World,” was shown Jan. 7.

Other films scheduled in the series include “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President Al Gore’s film about climate change, and “Trouble the Waters,” a documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Information from: Journal Inquirer, http://www.journalinquirer.com

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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