Texas | Public libraries in the crosshairs of the ‘censorship’ campaign

Residents of Llano County, Texas are asking the court to stop a group of conservative elected officials from carrying out a “censorship” campaign that resulted in the removal of many books from local public libraries.

Posted at 7:00 am

marc thibodeau

marc thibodeau

In a lawsuit filed Monday in US federal court, they allege that the elected officials in question “systematically” attacked several well-known works because of their “disagreement with the ideas they contain.”

“Public libraries are not places of government indoctrination. These are not places where those in power can dictate to the citizens what they can read and learn”, point out the plaintiffs, who denounce constitutional violations that “strike democracy to the heart”.

“The level of government involvement in the case is extreme and blatant,” Amy Senia, who is one of the attorneys in charge of the prosecution, said in an interview.

The elected officials noted speak of their desire to remove all “pornographic” content from library shelves to protect children, but this is in fact an “excuse,” he says.

His real motivation, the suit says, is to remove works that conflict with his own views “as well as his political and religious beliefs.”

Among the first books removed in August 2021 by the county in response to requests from a “pro-censorship” citizens group was an acclaimed sex education book with colorful illustrations of the human body.

The ideological scope of the censorship would have broadened considerably after this same group of citizens set out to count how many books offered in county libraries appeared on a list of 850 books categorized as problematic by a Texas congressman, Matt Krause.

In November, books dealing with economic inequality in the United States, the history of the Ku Klux Klan, the life of a transgender woman and a gay skateboarder were removed from libraries “without notice.”

blocked access

According to the lawsuit, elected officials also decided to block access to a system that allowed online access to thousands of e-books on the pretext that it contained two books that appeared on Mr. Krause’s list.

In January 2022, several citizens behind the censorship campaign were appointed members of an advisory body responsible, in particular, for reviewing the current procedures for adding or removing books from public libraries.

In particular, they have since established a collections review committee to determine which books are “appropriate.”

No criteria have been defined to frame this exercise and no public consultation process is planned on this issue, point out the lawyers in charge of the prosecution, who ask the court to issue a precautionary measure to put an end to the constitutional violations suffered by their clients. .

It was not possible to obtain a reaction on Tuesday from the head of the commissioners’ court that oversees the county, Ron Cunningham, who evokes the intervention of the courts to justify his silence.

An employee declined to confirm the content of comments made by Mr. Cunningham regarding the controversy in a recent official statement, noting that Press had to make an access to information request to obtain this information.

According Washington Postthe elected official deplored that “a portion of the public and the media have chosen to spread false information that Llano County (and other rural communities) is animated by phobias or political motivations.”

Censorship attempts are on the rise in the United States, according to the American Library Association (ALA), which is alarmed that a growing number of its members are facing attacks “orchestrated by conservative parent groups and the media.” right-wing communication” against books that deal with issues of race, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

The organization claims to have identified, from September to November 2021, 330 separate cases of this nature, almost double the number recorded for the entire previous year.

“We oppose censorship, and any attempt to impose ideas, prevent certain opinions or punish those who hold a discourse contrary to what is considered orthodox in terms of history, politics or beliefs”, underline the ALA leaders.

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