Ashcroft’s book ban proposal slammed by ACLU

JEFFERSON CITY – The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri joined the fight Wednesday to overturn U.S. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s plan to block public funding for libraries if they sell books that are sexually appealing to minors.

Claiming that the proposed law would threaten free speech, the ACLU joined the Missouri Library Association and the Missouri School Library Association to stop the law from taking effect.

“As Missourians, we must find it unacceptable that state funding is used as a tool to incite and encourage censorship. The ACLU of Missouri stands with our libraries and librarians,” the organization said in a formal comment on the proposal.

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Ashcroft He may run for governor in 2024, floated the rule last month. It’s midway through a month-long public comment period. A spokeswoman for Ashcroft said thousands of comments had been submitted in the first two weeks of the comment period.

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The proposed legislation would require Missouri’s 160 local public libraries to adopt age-appropriate literature policies. And under the bylaws, anyone can object to access to books.

Libraries that violate the rules may lose state funding, which is awarded to state libraries through the Office of the Secretary of State. Budget documents set aside more than $3.5 million for the coming fiscal year.

Based on the comments, the rule could be reworked or go before a bipartisan group of state lawmakers who could vote to send the issue to the full House and Senate.

The proposal drew pushback from libraries and others, who said it was an attempt to ban books by a conservative politician.

“The rule not only undermines the professional judgment of librarians and other trained education professionals, but also serves to chill free speech and the First Amendment rights of Missourians,” the ACLU said. “We must protect Missourians’ First Amendment rights to access ideas and information.”

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The organization also said that democracy improves when all people, including children, speak freely and learn about the views of communities different from their own.

“It opens minds and enriches perspectives. Our societies and democracies are stronger when access to information and ideas is supported,” the group said.

The proposed change is similar to a new law passed by Missouri’s Republican-led legislature that makes it a felony for teachers to provide K-12 students with sexually suggestive photos, drawings or other visual images, punishable by up to a year in prison. .

There are educational exceptions for reproductive, biological, artistic, or other images, and the law does not prohibit textual representations that could be construed as sexually explicit.

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Penn America, a 100-year-old New York-based organization that works to protect writers’ freedom of expression, counted nearly 300 books banned from 11 Missouri school districts as of Nov. 15. The Post has identified nearly 100 books banned by school districts in the St. Louis area this fall, and PEN’s figures don’t include some of those districts.

The rule change comes as Ashcroft, a Republican, is slated to run for governor in 2024. Gov. Mike Parsons is set on a deadline.

Comments about the rule may be submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office by email at [email protected] or by traditional mail to the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office, PO Box 1767, Jefferson City, MO 65102. Comments are submitted by email. Must include “15 CSR 30-200.015” in the subject line.

School teachers across Missouri are pulling books from their shelves because they could face criminal charges under a new state law passed in late August 2022.



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