Illinois Bans Book Bans With New BillMay 31, 2023
Illinois has become the first state in the US to pass a bill banning book bans for institutions that receive state funding. The State House and Senate have both passed HB 2789, and democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the bill into law, which will take effect January 2024.
According to Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, the bill is in response to 67 attempted book bans in the state and efforts around the nation to restrict access to books for personal and political reasons.
The bill says that library reading materials should not be removed or restricted because of partisan or personal reasons. It also authorizes the secretary of state’s office to restrict funding from libraries that don’t adhere to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Bill of Rights, which outlines the ways in which libraries commit to be inclusive, fight censorship, and protect the privacy of their patrons.
Giannoulias shared that, “All these efforts to curb reading materials have absolutely nothing to do with books. They are about restricting the freedom of ideas that certain individuals disagree with and that certain individuals think others should have access to.”
This law is the first of its kind in the US and the bill’s passage comes just days after a Florida elementary school banned Amanda Gorman’s poem, The Hill We Climb, which she read at Biden’s 2020 inauguration. The school moved it and other books on Black and Cuban history from the elementary school to the middle school library based on a complaint from one parent. It has since been reported that the parent, Daily Salinas, has not read the books in full, has been called out for antisemitic posts on Facebook, and attends far right events with the Proud Boys and Moms for Liberty. Her one uninformed complaint has robbed an entire school’s elementary students of access to four books that are age-appropriate, and in Amanda Gorman’s case, important historically and as part of current events.
Most of the censorship being requested is to restrict access to representation and information by and about marginalized groups. States like Florida are not only banning books, but also criminalizing teaching facts about America’s racist history and the existence of trans and gay folks.
According the ALA, “a record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted for censorship in 2021. Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.”
This is part of a coordinated campaign. Before 2021 and this coordinated effort to remove books, the vast majority of challenges sought to restrict or remove access to a single book. In 2021, 90% of challenges targeted more than one book, and 40% of cases included lists of 100 books or more. I doubt the claimants are suddenly bingeing books by Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and LGBTQ+ authors. A May 23 Washington Post article reported on the recent wave of book challenges and found that individuals challenging 10 or more books were responsible for two-thirds of all complaints. The article stated, “The majority of the 1,000-plus book challenges analyzed by The Post were filed by just 11 people.”
I hope more states follow Illinois’ example. If one party is going to weaponize restricting access to information, the other party can use the law to fight censorship.
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