Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Texas residents sued over public library book

Texas residents alleged in a federal lawsuit that Llano County officials were violating their constitutional rights by snatching books from public libraries “because they disagree with their innermost views.”

The lawsuit, filed Monday by seven residents of a central Texas county of nearly 20,000 residents, accuses the county judge, commissioners, library board members and library system director of systematically censoring patrons accessing content both digitally and on shelves.

The censorship campaign, the suit says, was “disguised as a means to protect the community’s children from graphic, sexual and ‘obscene’ material. In fact, none of the books targeted by the defendants are obscene or obscene.”

Books censored according to the suit include Maurice Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen,” which contains a picture of a naked child, and children’s books on sexual health. The county also targeted illustrated “fart” and “butt” books, such as “I Need a New Butt!” And “Larry the farting leprechaun,” says the complaint.

Lanano County judges, commissioners, library board members and the library system director are accused of systematically censoring a patron’s right to access material digitally and on shelves. In this photo, books line the shelves at the Rice University Library in Houston.

Brandon Bell via Getty Images

Censored adult books include “Race, the Origins of Our Discontent” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson, “He Himself KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” and the memoir by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen,” according to suit by LGBTQ activist Jazz Jennings.

“The censorship that the defendants imposed on Llano County public libraries is offensive to the First Amendment and attacks the very core of democracy,” the lawsuit states.

Officials named as defendants in the lawsuit did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

The suit portrays the 10 defendants as a power-hungry crusader bent on total control of library patrons’ reading. The suit states that he replaced members of the library board with individuals who supported censorship, held secret meetings, fired a prominent librarian opposed to censorship and failed to find a way to censor individual books. After that the entire digital book collection of the library system was removed.

“Personally, the defendants have admitted that they are banning the books because they disagree with their political viewpoints and dislike their subject matter,” the suit states.

The censorship efforts were eventually supported by Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham, who in November directed the library system director to remove “all books that depict any form of sexual activity or suspicious nudity” from shelves, the suit says. . Cunningham also prohibited librarians from buying new books. Cunningham’s office declined to comment, citing the lawsuit.

The following month, three of the county’s libraries were closed for three days so that defendants could conduct a private review of the “suitability” of the books in the teen and children’s sections. According to the lawsuit, the defendants considered a list of 850 books that Republican Rep. Matt Krauss, running for state attorney general, found objectionable.

In January, the suit said, county commissioners voted to disband the existing library board and replace it with pro-censorship individuals advocating for a ban on health picture books and editions of the crucifixion. Appear in the list, the suit alleges. The new board closed meetings to the public and staff librarians, and put a hold on demonetisation for fear that they might be considered public record, the suit claims.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Ellen Leonida told the Texas Tribune that she plans to obtain a preliminary injunction this week to bring the books back on shelves and restore digital access as the lawsuit proceeds.

“They can’t censor books based on viewpoints they disagree with,” Leonida said.

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