In Support of the Law Against Book Bans

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryIn mid-June Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law a bill that prevents the banning of books from public libraries as well as school libraries. The law will exact financial penalties of any institution which gives in to banning a book, and prevent social and religious groups from having the power of banning books they find “pornographic” or “controversial.” As an author, just about any book in my view can by definition be controversial. Books are the instruments of introducing ideas and beliefs or concepts that certain groups of people could find objectionable.

And this was the reason why this law was enacted in Illinois; to prevent those who would ban books because they found them objectionable. In my view, such a law is needed and necessary to prevent those who would use their power in the community from banning books with viewpoints other than their own. Today they may ban books they find “pornographic,” but tomorrow they may want to ban books about evolution, minority religions like Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism or some other subject other than what the majority thinks is “appropriate.”

Sadly, this law was passed by the Illinois State Assembly only with Democratic support. Not a single Republican supported this. Why? Republican opposition was due to the mistaken and misleading idea that books about “racism” and “how to make a nuclear bomb” might be introduced into public and school libraries that young people might see. This nonsense misses the whole book selection process libraries use to screen books for harmful content. Books that, for example, tell how to make bombs or anything physically harmful are certainly not selected. And as for books that promote racism? This can be answered by the U.S. Supreme Court decision made in the Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School case where certain forms of speech were protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The promotion of racism in the public schools was not one of them.

The real problem I see with book banning is that books are banned because certain groups, mostly religious groups, want books banned because they find them “morally” objectionable. This is what the new Illinois law preventing book bans is all about. This law prevents powerful religious groups and organizations from banning books they do not like. Such objections of new and unorthodox ideas have no place in a free and open society. Hence, why this law was passed. The American Library Association supports this new law, and they have dubbed it a “Library Bill of Rights.” Indeed, that is what the law is. Libraries need protection from arbitrary powers-that-be from banning, censoring or destroying books they do not like. This does not mean that certain people and groups will try to interfere with a library selection process for books. This law is fortunately a layer of protection against those who have power from having carte blanche to ban any and all books they do not like.

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