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Wednesday, June 5, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

California ban on book bans passes key vote

Supporters of the bill said diverse voices are needed in materials offered by public libraries.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — A California Assembly bill that would prohibit public libraries from banning books based on the ideas or opinions they contain is on its way to the state Senate after a Thursday vote.

Assembly Bill 1825 — written by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, a Torrance Democrat — is titled the California Freedom to Read Act. It would prohibit a library’s governing board from discriminating against materials based on criteria like race, gender identity, sexual orientation and religion.

Libraries would have to create a policy that, among other items, acknowledges the public’s right to access materials that include a range of social, political and moral experiences. They also would develop a method for people to challenge what’s in a library.

The bill focuses on public libraries. School libraries aren’t included in the legislation.

The bill passed 49 to 3. It now advances to the Senate.

“The freedom to read is foundational to our democracy,” Muratsuchi said, adding that foundation has been under attack.

According to Muratsuchi, 47% of library materials targeted include the voices of people of color and the LGBTQ community.

A bill analysis by Assembly staff stated the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has seen challenges against books grow by 65% from 2022 to 2023. Over 4,000 titles faced censorship attempts.

That office saw trends in these attempts. Pressure groups focused on both public and school libraries, demanding the censorship of dozens or hundreds of books at a time. In 2022, California saw 32 attempts to ban 87 titles. In 2023, that rose to 52 attempts on 98 titles.

On a day when many bills receive little to no discussion, as both legislative chambers are racing to meet a Friday deadline to pass bills, two Assembly members spoke in support of Muratsuchi’s legislation.

Assemblymember Chris Ward, a San Diego Democrat, said the LGBTQ caucus endorsed the bill. He added that stories of people with diverse backgrounds should be celebrated.

Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, a Fullerton Democrat, said that the city of Huntington Beach — almost 30 miles by vehicle from her town — is moving forward on book banning and privatizing its library. That will lead to librarians leaving because they’ve lost their autonomy.

Huntington Beach Councilmember Dan Kalmick, who watched the Assembly proceedings online, told Courthouse News he was pleased to see the bill pass. Kalmick said a local group already is circulating a petition for a vote that would repeal a local ordinance that created the Parent/Guardian Book Review Committee.

That committee, created last year by the City Council, reviews proposed and new children’s books and materials that might have sexual content before they’re put on the shelf.

“And starting next week, other residents will start circulating petitions for a ballot initiative to require a vote of the people in order to change the wholesale management structure or outsource management of the library,” Kalmick said in an email.

Quirk-Silva said that in some cases one person petitioning a city council or school board has gotten a book banned.

“'Charlotte’s Web,’ 'Anne Frank’ — these are the types of books someone has objected to,” Quirk-Silva said.

Assemblymember Joe Patterson, a Rocklin Republican, didn’t speak on the Assembly floor about the bill, though he appeared to reference it in a post on X, formerly Twitter, Thursday morning.

“No one in CA is banning Charlotte’s Web,” he posted. “Good grief. That’s misinformation!”

Categories / Arts, Education, Government

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