Updated September 15, 2021

“To prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the nation’s inhabitants to be either fools or slaves.” – Claude-Adrien Helvetius [1715-1771]

“In a free society a citizen has the power to choose, and bears responsibility for the choices he makes. Censorship laws deprive us of choice and responsibility. They diminish us, and they diminish our society.” – Howard Moody (“Toward a New Definition of Obscenity,” 1965)

“But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the exiting generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” – John Stuart Mill (“Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion,” On Liberty, 1859)

“Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.”- A. Whitney Griswold (“A Little Learning,” Essays on Education, 1954)

“The crime of book purging is that it involves a rejection of the word. For the word is never absolute truth, but only man’s frail and human effort to approach the truth. To reject the word is to reject the human search.” –  Max Lerner, 1953

“Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people as well.” – Heinrich Heine, 1821

“Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘That book had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?'” – Joseph Henry Jackson, 1953

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s simply a whine, just no more than a whine. ‘I find that offensive’: it has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase.” – Stephen Fry

“If we don’t believe in free expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” – Noam Chomsky, 1992

“Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.” – Albert Einstein (on the controversy surrounding Bertrand Russell’s appointment to the faculty of the City University of New York, quoted in The New York Times, 1940)