The Florida Citizens Alliance is escalating tactics again seemingly in response to the lack of book challenges and bans in their home state. According to the Tampa Bay Times, FCA is encouraging the state’s Attorney General to prosecute schools that give obscene materials to children which is already a law in Florida, but one that FCA doesn’t think it’s being enforced. The Times quotes FCA’s recently released report,
We demand that the Attorney General enforce existing anti-pornography statutes … and that the legislature take whatever action is necessary to strengthen existing laws that are being completely ignored by public schools!
The books they are labeling as pornography include books by Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer, Raina Telgemeier’s much loved comic Drama, and many more titles.
The report offers inadequate explanations of the laws they think local schools are in violation of,
FS 1006.34 2b(4) clearly prohibits sexually explicit material: “Any instructional material containing pornography or otherwise prohibited by s.847.012 may not be used or made available within any public school.”
“A person may not knowingly sell, rent, or loan for monetary consideration to a minor: (b) Any book, pamphlet, magazine, printed matter however reproduced, or sound recording that contains any matter defined in s.847.001, explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, or sexual conduct and that is harmful to minors.”
Tampa Bay points out what many recall from the failed Fun Home lawsuit, or failed Maine legislation, “obscenity laws the group refers to speak to material that ‘taken as a whole, is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.’”
Timeline of Florida Citizens Alliance (FLCA) Censorship Activity
The FLCA has been training its members for years to bring frivolous challenges against textbooks in all 66 Florida counties.
- 2016: FLCA publishes an “assessment” of curricular materials, calling for the removal of hundreds of classic literary works, history and science texts from Collier, Martin, Clay and Nassau Counties. They challenged 220 science texts in Collier County alone.
- 2017: FLCA authors unprecedented legislation allowing any Florida resident to challenge textbooks, regardless of whether their children attended school.
- 2018: FLCA teams up with Truth in Textbooks, a Texas group that claims to have trained estimated 20,000 volunteer challengers.
- 2019: FLCA teams up with It’s Your Tea Party FL to challenge dozens of texts in Marion County.
- 2019: FLCA introduces new bills to require bible study, remove materials that do not conform with conservative values, and authorize challengers the right to sue. All bills fail.
Most disturbing of all is their templates in the report are obviously designed to help their supporters by noting page numbers and exact quotes from the material they object to. By removing the difficult work of actually reading -or even flipping through- the books aimed at K-12, they can energize their base to file challenges locally and mire schools in book challenge procedures and appeals that take away time and money from the classrooms.
When you look at their template for the graphic novel Drama which is usually challenged based on a very chaste kiss between two boys, the reviewer flagged any mention in the text of same-sex attraction as breaking the Florida Constitution which declares marriage is between a man and a woman.
Florida’s Defense Against Marriage Act dates back to the 1990s, right after similar federal legislation was enacted. Despite the wording, and the Democrats failed attempts last year to get the wording removed, not only has the Supreme Court said it’s unconstitutional, Florida has been issuing same-sex marriage certificates for five years.
Stil, as outrageous as all this sounds, it’s not. If the FCA gets their way, they will scare teachers and administrators into not including diverse literature for fear of reprisals. It’s critical to speak out against this now and loudly.