Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign a bill that would punish publicly funded institutions, such as libraries and schools, for attempting to impose censorship. This is a prominent step in the fight against book bans, and will make Illinois the first U.S. state to enact such a law.
The New Illinois Bill
The bill would block essential state funding for public libraries and public schools in Illinois that ban books.
The Illinois Senate passed HB 2789 earlier in May and the bill was sent to Democratic governor Pritzker last week, who is poised to sign it. Once enacted, the law will take effect Jan. 1, 2024.
“In Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth,” Pritzker said in a statement when the legislation was introduced in March.
“We embrace it and lead with it. Banning books is a devastating attempt to erase our history and the authentic history of many.”Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Censorship across the U.S. has seen an unprecedented uptick in recent months.
Book Banning Continues
Book bans in U.S. public schools have increased by 28 percent in the first half of the 2022-2023 academic year, according to nonprofit free speech organization PEN America.
There were more than 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois in 2022 alone, up from 41 the previous year, according to the American Library Association’s Chicago Chapter. More than 2,500 books were objected to last year across the country, the association said. It is pertinent to remember, however, that objections do not automatically lead to bans.
Having said that, libraries and schools have been routinely targeted by far-right groups such as Proud Boys, who have shown up at school board meetings pressing for restrictions on books pertaining to themes of gender, sexuality and race, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
Conservative factions across the country are attempting to remove books written by or about members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color.
Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb
Poet Amanda Gorman, who took centerstage at President Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration, was the latest writer whose work was banned when her poem The Hill We Climb was removed from a Florida elementary school.
The complainant said the poem would “cause confusion and indoctrinate students,” but later admitted that she only read part of the material she objected to.
More About the Bill
The initiative was started by Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannouilas, whose office oversees the Illinois State Library and administers several grant programs for public schools and libraries.
The bill requires that as a condition of qualifying for those grants, libraries either adopt a written policy prohibiting the practice of banning books or follow the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which includes a statement that “(m)aterials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”
“This right-to-read legislation will help remove the pressure that librarians have had to endure from extremist groups like the Proud Boys that have targeted some of our libraries and their staff,” Giannoulias said during a news conference after the state Senate vote that sent the bill to Pritzker’s desk.
For more content on banned books, read here.