Written Testimony to Senate Judiciary Committee - Book Ban Hearing

The EveryLibrary Institute was invited to submit written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee for its September 12, 2023, hearing on “Book Bans: Examining How Censorship Limits Liberty and Literature.”

Our testimony highlights five key concerns, with a focus on the importance of upholding the First Amendment. The first concern is conflicts between the right to petition and free speech in libraries. We argue that a balance between the right to petition and intellectual freedom is critical, as a small number of individuals have filed numerous book ban petitions, potentially limiting access to diverse materials in schools and public libraries.

Our second concern is threats to Pico, which protects students' First Amendment rights in school libraries. Recent cases challenge the applicability of Pico, threatening students' freedom to access diverse viewpoints.

The third concern is threats to the Miller Test, which is used to determine obscenity. The Miller Test is being undermined by state legislation, with some bills aiming to redefine obscenity, potentially leading to biased book challenges and compromising free speech.

The fourth concern is attempts to criminalize libraries and educational institutions. Several states are attempting to criminalize librarians and educators under state obscenity laws. Such efforts could disrupt the stability of educational institutions and hinder professionals' ability to perform their duties. Finally, the fifth concern is conflating the First Amendment and the publishing sector. The testimony underscores the difference between the First Amendment's application to government actions and the publishing industry's independence. Public libraries are obligated to remain viewpoint-neutral, unlike private publishing entities.

The EveryLibrary Institute calls for the protection of libraries and schools as centers of free thought and exploration. They emphasize the importance of supporting a culture of reading and preserving democratic ideals by opposing arbitrary book removals and censorship.

Please read the full EveryLibrary Institute NFP written testimony to the Judiciary Committee by downloading a PDF now. We appreciate the Committee staff for facilitating our submission. You can find more information about the Hearing, along with links to the video archive and in-person witness testimony, on the Committee website.