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ABFE Free Speech Report

ABFE Free Speech Report, vol. 1, no. 2, May 2015

Mitch McConnell vs. USA FREEDOM Act

On May 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 2048), a bill that creates important safeguards for the privacy of the personal information of Americans, including their bookstore and library records. The vote was 338-88. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is promising to defeat it.

The American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) and other members of the Campaign for Reader Privacy have endorsed the FREEDOM Act. Booksellers, librarians, publishers, and writers launched the Campaign in 2004 because of our concern that the USA PATRIOT Act would make people afraid to read the books they want. The PATRIOT Act gives the government the power to secretly search any records that are “relevant” to a terrorism investigation, even the titles of books that people purchase or borrow.

ABFE is encouraging booksellers and other supporters of reader privacy to call their legislators in both houses of Congress to request support for the FREEDOM Act. A vote is expected in the Senate soon. There may be additional votes in the House as well. The easiest way to call is by using the new website Fight215. Co-sponsored by ABFE, the site includes a sample script as well as new technology that connects you with someone in the right office. READ MORE.

Judy Blume + 125 Artists = 2 Children’s Book Art Auctions

More than 125 artists have created a towering wave of art in response to the announcement that Judy Blume will be honored at this year’s ABFE Art Auction to Benefit Free Speech in Children’s Books at BookExpo America. Tickets are still available for the May 26 event, which will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt New York in Manhattan. It is sponsored by ABFE and Random House Children’s Books. Many of the best pieces are being set aside for a second, week-long auction that will launch on eBay on June 1. Auction proceeds support the Kids’ Right to Read Project and Banned Books Week. BUY TICKETS. READ MORE.

ABFE Reaffirms Support for Charlie Hebdo

On April 30, ABFE joined the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Association of American Publishers, and others in a statement reaffirming support for Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that was attacked by terrorists in January. Prominent American literary figures have criticized Charlie Hebdo for cartoons they believe are anti-Muslim. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau accused the magazine of “hate speech,” and many members of PEN American Center criticized PEN’s decision to honor the magazine at its annual gala. READ MORE.


Banned Books Week 2015 Will Feature YA Books

The sponsors of Banned Books Week (BBW) have announced that this year’s event, from September 27 through October 3, will focus attention on the growing number of challenges to Young Adult (YA) books. Last year, half of the 10 most frequently challenged books were YA: (1) The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; (2) Persepolis by Marjan Satrapi; (6) Saga by Brian Vaughn and Fiona Staples; (8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; and (10) Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

Asheville, NC, High School Rejects Challenge to Kite Runner

A review committee at A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville, North Carolina, has rejected a parent’s complaint that Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is too sexually explicit to use as a supplementary text in a 10th grade honors English class. The committee concluded that the teacher who chose Kite Runner had acted appropriately: thatthe book has literary merit; that parents were notified of the sexual content; and that an alternate assignment was available for those who wanted one. The complaining parent is expected to appeal to the school board.

The case has attracted a great deal of attention. “I, along with our faculty and staff, have been incredibly inspired by the overwhelming support of not only a majority of our parents and others within our community, but from people from across the country,” the school principal said.  The Kids’ Right to Read Project, which is sponsored by ABFE and the National Coalition Against Censorship, joined those urging the committee to retain the book. READ MORE.


Oops! Arizona Legislature Drops the Ball on Changes to “Revenge Porn” Law

The leader of the Arizona Senate has admitted that in the waning hours of the recently concluded legislative session he “just forgot” to schedule a vote on a bill that would have fixed the constitutional problems with Arizona’s new “revenge porn” law. The bill had already passed the Arizona House. ABFE and five Arizona booksellers are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the law. It is possible that the bill will be brought up during a special session of the legislature. In the meantime, state officials have agreed not to enforce the law, which makes it a felony to sell a book with a nude image without the permission of the subject of the photo.

Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Law Banning Speech by Criminals

On April 28, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Conner invalidated a new Pennsylvania law that gave the victims of violent crimes the right to silence those who had hurt them. He called the law “manifestly unconstitutional.”

“A past criminal offense does not extinguish the offender’s constitutional right to free expression,” Conner wrote in his decision. ABFE submitted an amicus brief in the case pointing out that The Autobiography of Malcolm X and other important books were written by ex-convicts. READ MORE.       


Chris Finan
ABFE Director

The American Booksellers for Free Expression, a program of the American Booksellers Association, is the bookseller's voice in the fight against censorship. Please visit our resources page for information about how booksellers can prepare for a variety of free speech emergencies or email In a crisis, call me, ABFE Director Chris Finan, at (917) 509-0340.
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