NEW ORLEANS – As book-banning and censorship efforts proliferate statewide amidst an alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, the ACLU of Louisiana released an open letter as a resource to help the people of Louisiana understand the Constitution’s protections against government censorship and viewpoint-based discrimination in libraries.
Following Attorney General Jeff Landry’s call for restrictions last month, censorship campaigns aimed at public libraries have escalated in many parishes across the state. Efforts in Louisiana have closely tracked partisan trends in national-level politics, focusing largely on materials that discuss or depict the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and people of color.
The following statement should be attributed to ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director, Alanah Odoms.
“Our First Amendment rights to read, explore, and debate new ideas is about more than principle. A free exchange of ideas is crucial to understanding our history and charting our path for the future. The ACLU of Louisiana offers this letter as an informative resource to those pushing back against censorship in their communities and the intolerance and exclusion that underlies it.”
“We still grapple with the legacy of oppression against Black and Brown people, women and girls, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Suppressing information about these ideas opens the door to suppression of any others that politicians don’t like. And for countless LGBTQ+ youth who face bullying, isolation, and depression in their communities, representation in books and literature can be a lifesaving refuge. Public libraries are places where young people should be able to learn about themselves and people who are different from themselves, not denied access to the diverse perspectives that books and art offer us all.”
Content-based censorship by the government is unconstitutional, and the First Amendment’s free speech protections extend to children and young adults - protections that apply with immense force in both school libraries and public libraries. Courts have consistently made it clear that public officials do not have the right to tip the scales to promote or suppress certain opinions or points of view, or to determine what ideas are appropriate for the people.
The fight for freedom of speech has been a bedrock of the ACLU’s mission since the organization was founded over 100 years ago. The ACLU remains absolutely committed to the preservation of freedom of expression, having been involved in virtually all of the landmark First Amendment cases to reach the Supreme Court.