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July 13, 2015
Hood County Judge
James Deaver, Precinct One Commissioner
Butch Barton, Precinct Two Commissioner
Jeff Tout, Precinct Three Commissioner
Steve Berry, Precinct Four Commissioner
Dear County Judge Darrell Cockerham and Hood County Commissioners,
We understand that the agenda for your July 14 meeting includes a public forum to discuss library issues in
the wake of objections to two children’s books with LGBT themes. We hope such an open forum will help
members of the community develop a better understanding of the mission of the public library and its legal
obligations. As organizations dedicated to the freedom to read and the application of First Amendment law
and principles in public institutions, we hope our letter will be useful in that regard.
We applaud the Hood County Library’s decision to retain the books, which is consistent with its mission to
serve all members of the community, and with the obligations imposed on public institutions by the First
Amendment. “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may
not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989). Thus, “local school boards may not remove books from school
libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books …” Board of Education, Island Trees
Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853, 872 (1982) (plurality opinion).
We understand that some patrons seek to remove the books from the children’s section to the adult section of
the library. This would be constitutionally problematic. In Sund v. City ofWichita Falls, 121 F.Supp.2d 530
(2000), a case involving efforts to move LGBT-themed books from the children’s section to the adult section
of the library, the court held that moving the books “unconstitutionally burdens the First Amendment rights
of browsing Library patrons,” by creating “barriers to their access to fully-protected information.” Id. at 551.
The district court further found that “[t]here simply is no interest, let alone a compelling one, in restricting
access to non-obscene, fully-protected library books solely on the basis of the majority’s disagreement with
their perceived message.” Id. at 552. As the court observed, parents who do not wish their children to read
such books can restrict their own children’s reading; however, they have no right to interfere with other
parents’ decisions about what their kids can see and read.
We hope the public discussion will address these important principles and clarify the fact that they are
essential to protect the rights of all members of the community to make their own decisions about what to
read and how to raise their children.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further assistance on this or any future cases.
Chris Finan, President
Bertin, Executive Director
American Booksellers For Free Expression
National Coalition Against Censorship
Charles Brownstein, Executive Director
Judy Platt, Director
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Free Expression Advocacy
Association of American Publishers
Fatima Shaik, Chair
Davis, Senior Developer
Children's and Young Adult Book Committee
Affiliate Groups and Public Outreach
Council of Teachers of English
PEN American Center
Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
CC: Courtney Kincaid, Library Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lori J. Kaspar, County Attorney: email@example.com