HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Free speech advocates are calling the suppression of a controversial autism film a dangerous precedent.
For the first time in nearly half a century an elected government leader has intervened to prevent a scheduled film from being screened at the Houston International Film Festival. The documentary is titled "Vaxxed" and chronicles the account of a CDC Whistleblower.
Mayor Sylvester Turner doesn't want it seen at a festival heavily funded by City taxpayers.
"I feel if he is going to go and ban a film for one of the largest cities in the country and say nobody can see this film because I'm concerned about the repercussions that he ought to at least view the film," said Leslie Phillips who advocates for vaccine safety.
Phillips says Turner has declined an offer to view the film.Today the Mayor's spokesperson again contended the documentary could undermine the City's child vaccination effort.
In response, University of Houston Law Professor Peter Linzer warned that Turner's suppression tramples on free speech.
"I got nothing against Sylvester Turner, but he's doing the wrong thing here. The Mayor has no business censoring films at a film festival," said Linzer adding, "Speech is not benign. People can get hurt. People can get injured by speech, but it's the best thing we've got."
Linzer says unlike private individuals, who have the prerogative to pick and choose what speech they present, the law holds government officials to a much higher standard when it comes to censorship.
"If somebody goes to court I think they will get an injunction and I think they would get it pretty fast," said Linzer.
Critics of the Mayor's move have scheduled a protest Tuesday morning in front of Houston City Hall.