Dozens of books that were removed from public libraries by officials in Llano County, Texas, due to concerns over their sexual and racial content must be returned to shelves, a federal judge ruled on March 30.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, in his preliminary injunction, ordered county officials to return all of the books, which cover multiple topics such as transgender teenagers and critical race theory (CRT), within 24 hours of his ruling.
The judge also ordered that officials update all Llano County Library Service’s catalogs to reflect that the books are available to be checked out after they have been put back on shelves.
The preliminary injunction was issued in response to an April 2022 lawsuit filed by seven patrons of the Llano County Library System against members of the Llano County Commissioners Court, including Judge Ron Cunningham, members of the Llano County Library Board, Commissioner Jerry Don Moss, and Llano County Library System Director Amber Milum.
Plaintiffs in that lawsuit (pdf) contested the decision in 2021 by county and library officials to remove certain books from the system and terminate access to others after some community members complained about their inappropriate content.
In their lawsuit, the library system members argued that doing so violated their First Amendment right to “access and receive ideas by restricting access to certain books based on their messages and content.”
They also argued that their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated because the removal of the books happened without prior notice and without any opportunity to appeal the decision.
Defendants had said that the books needed to be pulled from shelves to protect children from reading material that depicts sexual activity, nudity, pornographic content, encourages child grooming, and features other themes deemed inappropriate for young audiences.
However, plaintiffs had argued that the defendants had embarked on a “censorship campaign” that “targeted” books that conflicted with their “subjective opinions, as well as their political and religious views.” County officials then told librarians to stop ordering new publications in November, according to the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs also claimed that in December 2021, the Commissioners Court voted to dissolve the existing library board and to create a new one, named the “Library Advisory Board” which included residents who advocated for the removal of certain books deemed inappropriate for young readers.
The new board then instituted a policy that all new books must be presented to and approved by the board before purchasing them, and banned staff librarians and the public from attending the board’s meetings, according to the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs in their lawsuit had asked that the court grant an injunction against the removal of the books, that the defendants return the books to shelves, and reinstate their access to Overdrive, the Library’s former system for e-book access.
‘Ringing Victory for Democracy’
“Although libraries are afforded great discretion for their selection and acquisition decisions, the First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination,” Pitman said in his ruling.
“Plaintiffs have clearly stated a claim that falls squarely within this right: that Defendants removed the books at issue to prevent access to viewpoints and content to which they objected,” he added.
“Even if Plaintiffs had not shown a likelihood of success on their viewpoint discrimination claim, the Court finds that Plaintiffs clearly met their burden to show that these are content-based restrictions that are unlikely to pass constitutional muster. Content-based restrictions on speech are presumptively unconstitutional and subject to strict scrutiny,” the judge wrote.
“The evidence demonstrates that, without an injunction, defendants will continue to make access to the subject books difficult or impossible,” Pitman added.
However, the judge dismissed part of the suit pertaining to county officials reinstating plaintiffs’ access to the Overdrive system.
The Epoch Times has contacted a lawyer for county officials listed in the lawsuit for comment.
Which Books Were Banned
The list of books that must be returned to Llano County library shelves are:
“Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson.
“They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.
“Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings.
“Spinning” by Tillie Walden.
“In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak.
“It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender and Sexual Health” by Robie H. Harris.
“My Butt is So Noisy!” “I Broke My Butt!” and “I Need a New Butt!” by Dawn McMillan.
“Larry the Farting Leprechaun,” “Gary the Goose and His Gas on the Loose,” “Freddie the Farting Snowman” and “Harvey the Heart Had Too Many Farts” by Jane Bexley.
“Shine” and “Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale” by Lauren Myracle.
“Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” by Isabel Quintero.
“Freakboy” by Kristin Elizabeth Clark.