Texas County Officials Are Being Sued For Unconstitutional Book Ban!

17 books have been returned to a small-town Texas library after local officials were faced with a lawsuit concerning their ‘unconstitutional’ book ban!

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The bookish world has someone in our corner who can enact real change! We’ve been dealing with book bans nationwide for a hot minute. The offending legislation always claims they’re “protecting the children” by enacting book bans, but we know the real reason. And so does Judge Robert Pitman who claims that the defendant’s reasoning doesn’t “pass constitutional muster.” The drama with this book ban court case is STEAMING! We’ve got the details here!

Content Warning: my opinion throughout. I love living in Texas, but this is ridiculous.

Llano County, Texas Officials Sued

A large brick clock tower and building sit behind two trees. This is a photo of Llano County's Courthouse.

Image credit Llano County Texas website
cr. Llano County Texas

Let’s do a quick breakdown of the timeline of events that have led us to our current position–according to the presiding Judge’s filing. The latest court filing is only the tip of the iceberg, in this case. Back in the summer of 2021, four of the current roster of defendants began the trek toward a Llano county without “inappropriate” children’s books. The library system’s director informed the county commissioner’s court of the movement. As a result, the commissioners and library staff reviewed the books and while many of them saw nothing wrong with the titles, they were still removed. The official ruling by the judge required that the books be removed from the catalog.

This prompted a flood of complaints that resulted in the deletion of several books from the library’s system by August. The complaints consisted of buzz-word terms that spurred the already excitable commissioners and judges into action. Terminologies like the encouragement of “child grooming,” cartoon nudity–no doubt in reference to Gender Queer–pornographic filth, CRT (Critical Race Theory), race, LGBTQ, and more.

Just a few months later, the situation–yes, at this point, it’s a situation–escalated to the point that the county commissioner’s office closed the library for review of the library’s full catalog. And then they did something that can only be interpreted–by me–as a hostile takeover. The commissioner’s office dissolved the already existing library board, only to create a new one with newly–hand-selected–appointed members. The new members of the Llano County library board were the defendants who pushed for the bans in the first place. How does that make sense?

If you thought that this decision was maybe misguided and just taken out of context, then I’ll suspend my own belief along with you. I want to believe that there are good intentions behind every decision that a government board would make, at least good intentions in someone’s mind. Even though we’ve seen time and time again that it is untrue. I could have believed that they were really honestly thinking that they were improving the life and well-being of their youngest citizens–that is I could have if they didn’t go and do what they did next.

They stopped allowing librarians to attend meetings. It started by saying that they just weren’t needed, and evolved to no staff librarians allowed, and then even further to no public meetings. They completely removed access to the meetings about the library for the people that it affects the most.

The Book Ban Lawsuit Against Llano County Officials

Llano County Library in Texas. Recent board members of Llano County Commisioners Office have been under fire because of unconstituional book ban.
cr. The Daily Trib / Dakota Morrissiey

Just shortly after this was when our heroes–Leila Green Little, Jeanne Puryear, Kathy Kennedy, Rebecca Jones, Richard Day, Cynthia Waring, and Diane Moster–filed their lawsuit. The lawsuit says that the county judge, commissioners, and library director made efforts to conduct a “coordinated censorship campaign that violates the First Amendment and 14th Amendment.”

This may sound extreme but the list of events that the plaintiffs provided is basically irrefutable–removing several books off shelves? Check. Suspending access to digital library books? Check. Replacing the Llano County library board with community members that favor book bans? Apparently also check. Closing meetings to the public? Documented check.

The actions of the defendants occurred after Rep. Matt Krause compiled a list of 850 books that weren’t appropriate for children–in his own opinion. That list was compared to the holdings of the library by Bonnie Wallace–current Vice-Chairman of the Llano County Library Advisory Board and one of the defendants in this case. The lawsuit continues to state: “Defendants’ censorship campaign targeted books that conflicted with the Defendants’ political and religious view.”

The defendants are County Judge Ron Cunningham; county commissioners Jerry Don Moss, Peter Jones, Mike Sandoval, and Linda Raschke; library director Amber Milum, and library board members, Rochelle Wells, Rhonda Schneider, Gay Baskin, and Bonnie Wallace. They were quick to respond to the initial filing, on January 9th they released a brief that the only person to remove books was the library director, Amber Milum, and she “used standard industry criteria when making her decision.” Guess there isn’t any honor among thieves anymore.

Victory Against Book Bans! Books RETURNED to Texas County Library

A collection of books recently retured to local Llano County, Texas library due to unconsitutional book ban. 

Book covers from left to right.

They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartolletti, Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings, Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, Shine by Lauren Myracle, Spinning by Tillie Walden, Under the Moon by Lauren Myracle.
cr. Canva / Amazon

You could tell by the title of this article that the defendants were unsuccessful in their fight to ban these books. Judge Robert Pitman held a hearing in October after which he wrote: “Defendants removed the books at issue to prevent access to viewpoints and content to which they objected,” in the end remarking that their reasoning wouldn’t “pass constitutional muster.”

The Book List

A collection of books recently retured to local Llano County, Texas library due to unconsitutional book ban. 

Book covers from left to right.

Gary the Goose and His Gas on the Loose by Jane Bexley, I Need a New Butt! Collection by Dawn McMillan, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isable Quintero, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, Harvey the Heart Had Too Many Farts by Jane Bexley, Freddie the Farting Snowmany by Jane Bexley, Larry the Farting Leprechaun by Jane Bexley, It's Perfectly Normal by Robbie H. Harris
cr. Canva / Amazon

These 17 books have been returned to the Llano County Library and will remain available to the public for the foreseeable future. However, the compromise that Pitman struck between the parties was that the books aren’t being listed in the library catalog or on the digital library.

The defendants have filed for appeal on Judge Pitman’s decision, so we’ll keep you updated as we get new information.

My Thoughts On the Book Ban & Subsequent Lawsuit

Content Warning: my political opinion

Book bans are steadily becoming a weekly–if not daily–occurrence. This is a shocking and disappointing fact of the matter in the twenty-first century. You would think that humans would evolve, but unfortunately, the population is split down the middle by topics that are just dumb. This is a dumb argument. It is. I usually try to be as unbiased as possible when delivering the news because that’s the way it should be, but sometimes, y’all do some really stupid shit like this.

I’ve said it before–and I guess I’ll continue to say it because some of you aren’t grasping the point–banning books for everyone does not protect your children. You have the right to do whatever the hell you want to do in your own home, but the general public shouldn’t be forced to conform to your archaic mindset.

I think that the compromise struck by Judge Pitman is fairer than what the defendants of this case should have been afforded. That being said, I also recognize that I wouldn’t have been able to be unbiased in this case. I commend the parents and town members of Llano County, Texas who stepped up to fight against the actions of their county commissioners and library board.

Libraries are meant to work as caches of information for anyone on any topic that they desire to learn about. Limiting the type of books or content that libraries can provide damages the relationship between community and education that libraries stand for. I don’t see us escaping book bannings anytime soon, but I hope that more people wake up to the blatant disregard for personal freedom that these bans are committing.

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