Texas residents sue their county after books were removed from public libraries

This county 21,000 people The Texas Hill Country is now part of the growing number of communities in the United States where conservative groups and individuals have pushed to control which titles people can access and which books to take. race, gender, or sexual activity.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio, alleges that county officials removed books from the shelves of the three-branch public library system “because they disagreed with the ideas within them” and ended access to thousands. than digital books because they can’t block two specific titles.

“Public libraries are not places for government indoctrination. They are not places where people in power can dictate to their citizens what their citizens are allowed to read and learn. When government agencies target public library books because they disagree with ideas and intend to suppress them and within them endanger everyone’s freedoms,” As stated in the lawsuit.

Lanno County Judge Ron Cunningham, and County Commissioners Jerry Don Moss, Peter Jones, and Linda Rashke; Library System Director Amber Millum and four members of the Lanno County Library Board, Bonnie Wallace, Rochelle Wells, Rhonda Schneider and Jay Baskin, have been named as co-defendants in the case. They did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment. Llano County Commissioner Mike Sandoval, who is also named as a defendant in the suit, declined to comment.

In the lawsuit, Llano County mother Lily Green-Little, and six other plaintiffs argue that county officials removed several children’s books last August in response to complaints from a group of community members who described them as inappropriate. Among those titles are Maurice Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen” and “It’s All Natural: Changing Bodies, Growth, Sex, and Sexual Health” by Robbie H. Harris.

After several months, Texas Representative Matt Krause has launched an investigation into whether there are 850 books On topics of race or gender that might “make students uncomfortable” were in public school libraries and classrooms. The lawsuit says that Wallace eventually sent a spreadsheet of books from that list that were available in the Llano County Library’s collection.

In an email to Cunningham and others, Wallace asked “all pastors to participate in this matter. Perhaps they can organize a weekly prayer vigil on this particular issue. …I pray that God will protect our children from this torment,” the lawsuit alleged.

Some of the books in Wallace’s spreadsheet have been removed from library shelves, including Class: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson“Calling Themselves KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group,” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teenager” By Jazz Jennings, the lawsuit says. Wallace was later appointed vice chair of the library’s board of directors.

The lawsuit alleges that the county suspended access to e-books because it “was unable to remove two books from Krause’s list that offended politics and personal sensibilities,” dissolved its current library board, appointed Wallace and others who lobbied for the books’ removal, and closed public advisory board meetings.

Brooklyn Public Library offers young readers free library cards and access to banned books

Green Little, one of the residents who filed the suit, previously told CNN that her group of anti-censorship residents attended county meetings, wrote letters to officials and requested public records in an effort to “stop censorship.”

In addition to attorneys’ fees and a court order stating that the defendants have violated their constitutional rights, the lawsuit seeks an injunction designed “to end the defendants’ efforts to monopolize the market for ideas, and to ensure that there is once again a ‘perfect’ provision of material that presents all viewpoints concerning the problems of and Issues of Our Time, “To all patrons of the Llano County Library.”

potential effect

Shirley Robinson, CEO of Texas Library AssociationShe said she hopes the lawsuit will inspire people in other communities to speak up.

“It is a shame that this unnecessary culture war could lead to this, but we applaud the efforts of these individuals to take advantage of the justice system to speak out and say ‘enough is enough,’” Robinson said. restricting freedom of reading.

In a recent analysis, pen americaan organization that defends literature and freedom of expression, found it 1,145 books have been banned in communities across the United States from July 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022. The majority of the bans involved deviations from best practices established by the National Anti-Censorship Coalition (NCAC) and the American Library Association on how to challenge books and educational materials in schools and libraries, the group said.

For Jonathan Friedman, director of the Freedom of Expression and Education Program at PEN America, the Llano County lawsuit could have a major impact on the current climate and serve as a reminder of the constitutional protections people have across the country.

Friedman told CNN that there was a “sort of duty revocation” in support of the First Amendment and there was “very little resistance” from officials when there are demands to remove materials from school or public libraries.

“Whether it’s on the school board or whether it’s in a library, someone wants something and it looks like they’re going. In their meetings, there’s no resistance, there’s no friction, there’s no one in some of these rooms saying ‘OK, wait a minute’ Let’s make sure that we exercise due diligence, due process, and consider the kind of diversity of opinions as the people our organization serves.”