Llano County, Texas, will keep its libraries open after local politicians pondered closing them after a federal court ruling that said the county could not remove books deemed harmful to minors.
“For those who don’t understand what happened … the library will remain open,” Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham said. “We will try this in the courts, not through social or news media.”
Llano County removed a slate of books from its library shelves in 2021, sparking a lawsuit on First Amendment grounds. Most banned books were children’s titles that included s*x, gender, and race themes, but they also had joke books and Maurice Sendak’s picture book “In the Night Kitchen.”
“I think we owe it to all parents, regardless if it’s a school library or a public library, to make sure that material is not inappropriate for children,” Cunningham said at the time.
A federal judge ordered the books back on the shelves last week, sparking a discussion among county leaders about whether to close the library entirely.
“Defendants removed the books at issue to prevent access to viewpoints and content to which they objected,” Judge Robert Pitman said in his judgment. He noted that the county’s reasoning was unlikely to “pass constitutional muster.”
The uproar comes as counties around the country remove books off library shelves, arguing that some titles are inappropriate for youngsters. Much of the debate contends that books containing any text pertaining to the LGBTQ population are “grooming,” a notion that LGBTQ community supporters have called discriminatory.
After the books were banned in 2021, Llano County commissioners disbanded the library’s own board.
“This is a ringing victory for democracy,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Ellen Leonida said in a statement earlier this month. “The government cannot tell citizens what they can or can’t read. Our nation was founded on the free exchange of ideas, and banning books you disagree with direct attacks our most basic liberties.”
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