Giving Thanks for the Freedom to Read!

cbldf_logoWe’re grateful for the individuals, retailers, publishers, and creators who support CBLDF’s work in defense of the First Amendment. Because of your support, we were able to score a few key victories in the fight for free expression in 2016.

Here’s a brief look at just a few of those wins for the freedom to read…

Victory in Louisiana: Online Age-Verification Law Struck Down

CBLDF is among a group of plaintiffs who secured a permanent injunction against an unconstitutional Louisiana law that posed a significant threat to retailers and artists publishing on the Internet.

On October 7, Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson of federal district court signed an order permanently preventing Louisiana from enforcing H.B. 153. Judge Jackson had previously granted a preliminary injunction in the case, Garden District Book Shop v. Stewart. The state then determined that it would not defend the
constitutionality of the law and agreed to the permanent injunction.

Had the law not been struck down, booksellers and publishers would have had to either place an age confirmation button in front of their entire websites, thereby restricting access to materials that may be appropriate for all ages, or attempt to review all of the publications available at their websites and place an age confirmation button in front of each individual page that might be inappropriate for any minor. Failure to age-verify, even if no minor ever tried to access the material, would have been a crime subject to a $10,000 fine. False attestation by minors would have also been a crime under this law.

“We’re elated to have been a part of crushing this unconstitutional law,” said CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. “The provisions would have had a profound chilling effect on creators and retailers in Louisiana and harkened back to the generation of unconstitutional Internet laws we helped defeat in the early part of this century.”

The plaintiffs in the case are two independent booksellers, Garden District Book Shop and Octavia Books; Future Crawfish Paper LLC, publisher of Anti-Gravity magazine; the American Booksellers Association; and CBLDF. The lawsuit was brought by the Media Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Protecting the Right to Read Around the Country

thisonesummer-212x300CBLDF has successfully defended several books in 2016. Here are just a few books we protected from censorship:

Governor Vetoes Classroom Censorship Bill

In a victory for the freedom to read, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have required public schools to notify parents of “sexually explicit content” in curricular materials. The bill arose from one parent’s attempt to ban Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved from her son’s AP English class after he complained that the book’s content gave him nightmares.

After the bill passed through both houses of the Virginia General Assembly last month, CBLDF signed on to a letter from the National Coalition Against Censorship urging McAuliffe to reject it. In his veto statement today, the governor hit the nail on the head regarding one of the bill’s major pitfalls:

Open communication between parents and teachers is important, and school systems have an obligation to provide age-appropriate material for students.  However, this legislation lacks flexibility and would require the label of “sexually explicit” to apply to an artistic work based on a single scene, without further context. Numerous educators, librarians, students, and others involved in the teaching process have expressed their concerns about the real-life consequences of this legislation’s requirements.

CBLDF joined several letters in the challenged, including a letter to McAuliffe urging him to veto the bill.

Unfortunately, the case hasn’t been entirely put to rest by a veto from the highest power in Virginia: The woman who is waging the vendetta against Beloved has started an end run around the state legislature by going to the state Department of Education to bury regulation of “sexually explicit” content deep in the body’s standards. CBLDF just this week joined a letter to the state Board of Education opposing the regulation.

Please help us continue our important work in 2017! You can help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!