South Carolina lawmakers insist they are not trying to censor our public colleges.

Noooo, they would never do anything as backward or heavy-handed as that.

The state House of Representatives this week stripped $52,000 from the College of Charleston's budget - the exact cost of its "College Reads" program - because it doesn't want to pay for any liberal indoctrination hooey that the faculty or staff might push on freshmen.

Even though the state's meager appropriations to the college don't actually pay for the program, or much of anything else anymore.

That's not censorship, they say. But that's the way it's going to be, unless the state Senate stands up for the college. So if the College of Charleston wants to hold on to that minuscule percentage of its budget that actually comes from the state, perhaps the faculty should stick to this safe, informative and politically approved reading list:

The Steve Spurrier Story, because there is nothing as patriotic, inspirational or important to a college education as winning at football.

The South Carolina Ordinance of Secession. But whatever you do, don't pull out the accompanying "Declaration of Immediate Causes of Secession."

The 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, because all freshmen need to know it is their right to carry a gun in a King Street bar.

Note: Just skip over the 1st Amendment because in South Carolina there is no guarantee of free speech. Or, apparently, academic freedom.

Busybodies

Last summer, an advocacy group called Palmetto Family got upset when the College of Charleston selected "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel as its "College Reads" book for the upcoming academic year.

This program encourages students to read things they might not otherwise, and the books are selected for their subjects and ability to be discussed in several disciplines.

"Fun Home" was critically acclaimed when it was published, but Palmetto Family doesn't like it because it deals with homosexuality. And because it's a graphic novel, the book - gasp - includes pictures. Palmetto Family said because a handful of the pictures include nudity, the book is darn near pornography.

And they should know because they looked at every single page - twice.

Too bad they didn't read it because "Fun Home" is a sometimes disturbing, always unvarnished look at a complicated issue. It far from glorifies homosexuality.

This is a subject that college freshmen often know little about, and college is supposed to be about expanding your knowledge - learning about different things and making up your own mind. Students were not required to agree with the book, or even read it. They were supposed to discuss it. That's learning.

You know, it's funny how conservatives preach about keeping the government out of people's lives, but then use it to shut down anything they don't like. So the Legislature, led by some Upstate busybodies, yanked the C of C money and said "Fun Home" is inappropriate for "children."

Yeah, that's not the Legislature's job. Otherwise people might start to get the idea that their kids shouldn't attend college in a state run by a bunch of redneck legislators.

They'd better watch out; that could screw up Spurrier's recruiting.

Go private?

College professors and staff from schools around the state are pretty worried about this.

The Legislature not only has docked the College of Charleston over this but also cut funds at USC's Upstate campus for carrying a book with homosexual themes. Lawmakers also briefly considered cutting the budgets of any college that used nude models in art class - by $1 million.

What's next, burning people at the stake or making them wear scarlet letters?

Funny, lawmakers don't seem much like prudes when you see them in the Columbia bars after hours.

MUSC's Faculty Senate passed a resolution this week urging lawmakers not to restrict academic freedom. That was pretty bold, and a sign of how serious this is.

Let's hope MUSC gets a better reception than the College of Charleston's Student Government Association. The students sent letters to lawmakers asking that they restore the funding and allow academic freedom on campus.

State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, a Georgetown Republican, replied that if they didn't like it, the school could go private.

"At that point, you can require obscene pornographic mandatory reading without any intervention from the people who fund your school now," Goldfinch wrote.

First, the college might as well be private, given how little the state contributes to it. And second, that's a great way to talk to students - particularly when his wife is on the C of C Board of Trustees.

It's pretty bad when a bunch of college students have a better understanding of academic freedom - and constitutional rights - than politicians. But then, opportunists like Goldfinch are only concerned with pandering to their basest base.

Our lawmakers need to get their narrow minds out of the gutter and let colleges do what they want. Remember: knowledge is good.

Unless, of course, you depend on a widespread lack thereof to keep getting re-elected.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.