Judge blocks Arkansas law allowing librarians to be prosecuted for ‘harmful’ materials


LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) — Arkansas is temporarily prevented from enforcing a law that would have allowed it Criminal charges against librarians and booksellers for providing “harmful” materials to minors, a federal judge ruled Saturday.

US District Judge Timothy L. Brooks issued an injunction against the law, which would also have created a new process for challenging library materials and requiring them to be moved to areas inaccessible to children. The measure, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier this year, was scheduled to take effect on August 1.

A coalition including the Central Arkansas Library System in Little Rock had challenged the law, saying fears of prosecution under the measure could cause libraries and booksellers to stop carrying contestable titles.

The judge also denied a motion by the defendants, who include state prosecutors, to have the case dismissed.

The Arkansas ACLU, which represents some of the plaintiffs, welcomed the court’s decision, saying the lack of an injunction would have compromised First Amendment rights.

“The question we had to ask was: Do Arkansans still have legal access to reading materials? Fortunately, the justice system has once again defended our cherished freedoms,” said Holly Dickson, the ACLU’s Arkansas executive director, in a statement.

The lawsuit comes from lawmakers in a growing number of conservative states push for action This makes it easier to ban or restrict access to books. The number of attempts to ban or restrict books across the US last year was Highest value in 20 years The American Library Association has pursued such efforts.

Several other states, including Iowa, Indiana, and Texas, have enacted laws that restrict access to, or make it easier to challenge, certain materials.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said in an email Saturday that his office will “consider the judge’s opinion and continue to vigorously defend the law.”

Central Arkansas Library Systems executive director Nate Coulter said the judge’s 49-page decision recognized the law as censorship, a violation of the Constitution and a false disparagement of librarians.

“As the folks say in Southwest Arkansas, this order is as potent as horseradish!” he said in an email.

“I’m relieved that the dark cloud hanging over the CALS librarians has cleared for now,” he added.

Authors Guild general counsel Cheryl Davis said the organization was “thrilled” with the decision. She said enforcement of this law “will likely restrict the right to free speech of older minors who are able to read and process more complex reading materials than young children.”

The Arkansas lawsuit names the state’s 28 local prosecutors as defendants, along with Crawford County in western Arkansas. A separate lawsuit is challenging the Crawford County Library’s decision to move LGBTQ+-themed children’s books to a separate section of the library.

Also among the plaintiffs challenging Arkansas’ restrictions are the Fayetteville and Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Libraries, the American Booksellers Association, and the Association of American Publishers.

Related Articles

Back to top button