It has a power button

Pressure from the government should not be a reason to deny freedom of speech. Ultimately, it is a parent’s decision what to allow their children to view and tolerate. Tolerance is a bit of a mystery these days. With the topic of homosexuality and the issue of gay marriage prevalent in our everyday lives, it is no surprise that controversy now appears in the form of a cartoon.

Thursday night, PBS aired the latest episode of Postcards from Buster, a cartoon aimed at exposing youth to information about the many cultures and religions of our world. Included in past episodes were examples of religions like Christianity and Judaism. Buster has also spent time with black and American Indian families during his travels to learn about their cultures. None of these episodes were scrutinized for being offensive.

When it comes to culture and diversity, no one raises a flag of interest. Not enough, at least, to garnish national attention. However, if you add a dash of homosexuality and gay families to the mix, controversy gets included in the menu.

The episode in question, “Sugar time,” deals with rural farming families in Vermont. Along with being taught how to make maple syrup and learning of the Jewish ritual of Sabbath, Buster visits a family in which both parents are women. The term “lesbian” is not mentioned, but implied. The family is not dysfunctional. In fact, they appear quite happy.

The episode has raised many eyebrows from parents and officials alike. United States Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings objected to children learning about lesbian couples through a cartoon, especially at the expense of taxpayers. The cartoon was then pulled by PBS to avoid further debate.

Only one network, WBGH-TV in Boston, made the episode available. Out of more than 300 PBS affiliates, Tampa Bay was one of the merely 40 markets to air the episode.

According to an article in Wednesday’s Tampa Tribune, Postcards from Buster is in jeopardy of losing its funding due to the episode. While some complaints have been fielded toward the program in the past, this episode may have done Buster in.

While the motivation behind pulling the episode is no mystery, it begs the question: Should the government decide what is acceptable for children to see on television — especially when dealing with educational programs — or should parents have full authority over what their children watch?

Many do not believe that teaching homosexuality to young children is appropriate, alleging that infancy is not the right time for their minds to absorb the material. Others believe that homosexuality is morally impure and therefore intolerable.

Although our country is one of the most tolerant in terms of cultural diversity and religious freedom, the imposed moral views of government officials can stifle freedom of speech. It is because of our religious and cultural freedoms that this program should have aired in all markets; it is up to the parents whether or not they press the power button on their televisions.