Here is an important message for students at Robert Jacobs? Bel Air High School Banned Books Week discussion panel today: Ban more books!

That?s the best way to ensure more people read them.

Jacobs said he "turned it up a notch" for this year?s panel in part because of a controversy around "The Chocolate War," a 1974 novel school officials removed from a required reading list for a ninth grade class. Taking a book off a required reading list is a long way from banning it, but the result is the same: Students read it.

"It hadn?t been checked out in years," supervisor of school library services Terry LaPorte told reporter Matthew Santoni. "Now we don?t have a single copy left."

Jacobs added, "We have 15 copies. There are none on our shelves now."

Harford County librarian Jennifer Ralston said at the Thursday session, "We?ve purchased more. We have an extensive hold list" for the book nobody wanted to read before somebody protested it.

Forbidden fruit is the sweetest yet. Only banning can transform a mundane tome into a best-seller.

Just ask Salman Rushdie. Author of the "Satanic Verses," Rushdie triggered a 1989 fatwa calling all faithful throughout the world to kill him. Now that?s banning. Ayatollah Khomeini offered a sure place in heaven for whomever succeeded, and a $5 million bounty to enjoy in this world.

Eleven years later, in a prophetic essay at the dawning of the Third Millennium, Rushdie wrote, "Now we saw, as clearly as the fireworks in the sky, that the defining struggle of the new age would be between terrorism and security."

The front line of that battle is free expression. Any who oppose free expression side with the terrorists. All who support free expression side with security, for the only true security is built of freedom. Ideas are freedom?s foundation. They crumble under censorship.

Hundreds died in riots protesting Rushdie?s book. Islamic terrorists murdered two translators and shot one publisher.

But the primary impact of their lunacy was to transform into a best-seller a book that otherwise would have passed unnoticed and unread into the dusty back stacks of unremarkable literary history.

Almost two decades later, Khomeini is in hell. And Rushdie? He lives the life of an international celebrity on the run. He made a bundle, divorced his wife, married an actress and so far is alive, semi-famous, sympathetic to the pope and still writing. "Satanic Verses" continues selling fairly well.

That is what banning does: The opposite of what it intends to do. Take the Bible. It is the most banned book in history. Yet worldwide it is the most-owned, though unfortunately not the most-read.

Ironically, those who claim it is the perfect word of God ? even the 1631 King James edition that left "not" out of Exodus 20:14 ? are among the most strident book banners in America.

Giving them a close run in the book-banning competition are politically correct liberals searching desperately for their next outrage.

Pretty soon between the Lunatic Left and Self-righteous Right, nobody in America will be allowed to read. Except that we shall be ever more determined to do so.

The best message for Jacobs students, for every American, and for all freedom-loving people on Earth to celebrate this 25th anniversary of Banned Book Week is this: Read a banned book. "Of Mice and Men," anyone?

To get a list of banned titles, visit the American Library Association at

Frank Keegan is editor of The Baltimore Examiner. He can be reached at