The PEN Charter is based on resolutions passed at international congresses and may be summarized as affirming that:

  1. Literature, national though it be in origin, knows no frontiers, and should remain common currency between nations in spite of political or international upheavals.
  2. In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.
  3. Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favor of good understanding and mutual respect between nations; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in one world.
  4. PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong. PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world towards a more highly organized political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations and institutions imperative. And since freedom of expression implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends. 


PEN Center USA’s membership consists of over 600 published authors, as well as a number of burgeoning writers, students, and booksellers who support our mission. All members share a commitment to the betterment of the literary community and advocacy of freedom of expression both internationally and domestically. The annual dues of membership, which vary by type, provide significant financial support that allows our members to carry out the work of PEN Center USA. Additionally, they grant a crucial endorsement that gives our center the authority to advocate on behalf of all writers, wherever they are imperiled. While the rewards of PEN Center USA membership start with the knowledge that you are helping to free imprisoned writers around the world and to defend the First Amendment, your writing career also directly benefits from your PEN Center USA membership.