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A law in Arkansas that allows librarians to face criminal charges for holding “harmful” materials is blocked by a judge

By 07/30/2023 3:40 PMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff


A federal judge ruled on Saturday that Arkansas is temporarily barred from executing a statute that would have permitted criminal charges against retailers and librarians for lending “harmful” products to children.

A preliminary injunction was issued by the U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks against the statute, which would have also established a new procedure for contesting library works and asking that they be moved to locations that are inaccessible to children.

The law was supposed to go into effect on August 1 after being signed by Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier this year.

A group, which included the Central Arkansas Library System in Little Rock, challenged the statute, arguing that fear of legal action under the provision may lead bookstores and libraries to stop carrying books that might be subject to legal action.

The defendants, which include state prosecutors, also requested that the case be dismissed, but the judge denied their request.

The Arkansas Civil Liberties Union, which is representing some of the plaintiffs, praised the court’s decision and said that a preliminary injunction would have protected First Amendment rights.

“The issue we had to raise was: Are books still available to Arkansans legally? Fortunately, the legal system has once again protected our highly prized liberties, said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas.

The complaint is filed at a time when legislators are urging more conservative states to pass legislation that will make it simpler to restrict or outright ban book access.

The American Library Association has been keeping track of initiatives to restrict or ban books for 20 years, and last year saw the largest number of such attempts nationwide.

Several other states, including Texas, Indiana, and Iowa, have passed legislation limiting access to specific documents or making it simpler to dispute them. Tim Griffin, the attorney general of Arkansas, wrote in an email on Saturday that his office would be “reviewing the judge’s opinion and will continue to vigorously defend the law.”

Nate Coulter, executive director of the Central Arkansas Library System, claimed that the judge’s 49-page opinion acknowledged the statute as censorship, a constitutional infringement, and unfairly disparaging of librarians.

“This order is as strong as horseradish, as they say in southwest Arkansas! he wrote in an email. “I’m happy that for the time being the gloomy cloud that was over CALS’ librarians has passed. The Authors Guild’s general counsel, Cheryl Davis, declared that the group is “thrilled” about the choice. Enforcing this regulation, according to the author, “is likely to limit the free speech rights of older minors, who are capable of reading and processing more complex reading materials than young children can.”

Along with Crawford County in west Arkansas, the 28 local prosecutors for the state of Arkansas are named as defendants in the action. The Crawford County Library’s decision to relocate children’s books with LGBTQ+ themes to a different section of the library is being contested in a separate case.

The Fayetteville and Eureka Springs Carnegie public libraries, the American Booksellers Association, and the Association of American Publishers are among the plaintiffs challenging Arkansas’ restrictions.


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