Families and Librarians Defend Their First Amendment Rights Against Extremist-Stacked Library Board’s Effort to Impose Orwellian Book Censorship Policy 

Prattville, AL – A group of Alabama families and librarians with a broad array of political and religious backgrounds are suing to stop new policies that threaten to keep constitutionally protected books like To Kill a Mockingbird off of public library shelves in the town of Prattville, Alabama, the coalition announced today. 

In a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Read Freely Alabama, the Alabama Library Association and a group of families who have relied on the public library system are asking the court to stop a series of harmful policies recently approved by the Autauga-Prattville Public Library Board of Trustees. The policies being challenged prevent public libraries from acquiring any books marketed to minors that include material on a broad and easily malleable “selection criteria,” as well as ways to use the arbitrary “selection criteria” to remove existing books from library shelves – including books like To Kill a Mockingbird and 1984, among many others. In addition to these classics, the selection criteria approved by the board has overwhelmingly restricted books with themes about and protagonists of diverse backgrounds, especially the LGBTQIA+ community. 

“This is about who should get to decide what books our kids get to read — parents or politicians,” said Angie Hayden of Read Freely Alabama. “Though we come from across the religious and political spectrum, the group who came together to take action in the case share an intense pride in our home state — and its deep history in the fight for civil rights — and we cannot sit on the sidelines at this critical moment.” 

Last November, Prattville was rocked by extremist-fueled controversy when Clean Up Alabama, an organization connected with Moms For Liberty (which was designated as an “extremist” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center)  and their efforts to ban books around the country, got a member appointed to the library board, and then quickly executed a board takeover that allowed them to pass a series of policies to restrict what books are available to people in Autauga-Prattville public libraries. 

“The Autauga-Prattville Public Library Board of Trustees’ clear partnership with the Moms for Liberty-adjacent Clean Up Alabama makes them the latest in a concerning trend of far-right efforts to suppress books that reflect perspectives they don’t agree with in communities across the country,” said Craig Scott, President of the Alabama Library Association. “As state legislators rush to expand on the policies put in place in Prattville, it is crucial that the courts make clear that in our democracy, you cannot discriminate or restrict the freedom to read.” 

Read Freely Alabama, the Alabama Library Association, and the group of Prattville parents whose families have experienced the harms of these policies are being represented in the case by Democracy Forward, a non-profit legal organization that is working with neighbors in communities challenging other book ban policies throughout the nation, and Wiggins Childs, an Alabama-based law firm with a strong civil rights practice. 

“The freedom to read is fundamental to democracy, and extremist efforts to impose their personal beliefs on policies that dictate what books can be in public libraries is dangerous for democracy,” said Skye Perryman, President and CEO of Democracy Forward. “Democracy Forward is very honored to work with families and librarians in Alabama to stop this extremist attempt to censor books.”

Please find the filing submitted today in full below. For more about Democracy Forward, please visit www.democracyforward.org

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