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ABFE Free Speech Report

ABFE Free Speech Report, vol. 1, no. 4, July 2015

Arizona Surren​ders to Booksellers

On Friday, July 10, a federal judge in Phoenix permanently blocked Arizona officials from enforcing a 2014 law restricting the display of nude pictures in books, newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet.  The judge approved a jointly agreed upon settlement between the Arizona attorney general and a coalition of Arizona booksellers, book and newspaper publishers, librarians, and photographers, who had filed a lawsuit challenging the law.  Five bookstores were plaintiffs in the case: Antigone Books (Tucson); Bookmans (Tucson, Phoenix, Mesa, and Flagstaff); Changing Hands Bookstore (Tempe and Phoenix); Copper News Book Store (Ajo); and Mostly Books (Tucson). American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) was also a plaintiff.

The law made it a felony to distribute “revenge porn,” a term popularly understood to describe a person’s malicious posting of an identifiable, private image online with the intent and effect of harming an ex-lover or former spouse.  But the plaintiffs maintained that the law wasn’t limited to revenge; that it criminalized far more than offensive acts; and that it applied to books and magazines that contained nude photographs of artistic and historical significance that are protected by the First Amendment.   

ABFE Expands Distribution of Banned Books Week Kits

​ABFE is making it easy for many more members of the American Booksellers Association to participate in this year’s Banned Books Week (September 27–October 3) by sending a display kit to hundreds of stores in the August Red Box. The kit will be sent to stores that received the kit last year, stores participating in the Ingram Banned Books Week ordering program, the most active IndieBound stores, and, while supplies last, stores requesting the kit by e-mailing  The kit includes 25 feet of “Caution” tape, bookmarks, stickers (“I Read Banned Books” and “I Sell Banned Books”), an easel-back display, a pamphlet describing the titles banned and challenged in 2014–2015, and suggestions for Banned Books Week displays.

ABFE Director Chris Finan explains the important role that booksellers play in Banned Books Week in his recent “Free Speech” column in Bookselling This Week. 

The display kit was created by ABFE and the Ingram Content Group two years ago for stores that placed an order from a list of more than 450 banned and challenged titles on Ingram’s ipage®. In 2015, Ingram will again offer an additional discount on initial orders of 30 or more books as well as subsequent orders placed between August 31 and October 5.  ABA members ordering from Ingram will receive the display kit from ABA by mail. (For more information about the Ingram program or to place an order, contact your Ingram sales representative; call Ingram Customer Care at (800) 937-8200; or e-mail

Ninth Circuit Seeks ​Answers About Tucson Book Banning

On Tuesday, July 7, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a group of students is entitled to further hearings in their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of an Arizona law that was used to suspend the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson schools.  In January 2012, Tucson school officials interrupted a Mexican American Studies (MAS) class and removed copies of seven titles used in the class.  The MAS classes were later suspended in compliance with a new state law that prohibited the use of books and other class materials that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or “advocate ethnic solidarity.”  The lawsuit asserts that the law violates the First Amendment and discriminates against the students because they are Mexican-Americans.  A federal district court agreed in part with the students but dismissed most of their claims, denying them a trial on those issues.  The appeals court decision means the students will get the trial they have been seeking.  ABFE has joined an amicus brief supporting the students’ First Amendment rights.    

Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP) Update: Latest Book Challenges

My Princess Boy, by Cheryl Kilodavis
This Day in June, by Gayle Pitman

Where: Hood County Public Library, Texas

Why: The library received dozens of requests to remove these books because of their LGBTQ themes.  According to the protesters, the books, which were shelved in the children’s section, promote “perversion” and the “gay lifestyle” and “brainwash children.”

Outcome: Challenge rejected.  However, the protesters carried their complaint to the Hood County Commissioners.  Although the commissioners cannot override the library’s decision, they scheduled a July 14 public hearing.  The Kids’ Right to Read Project, which is sponsored by the National Coalition Against Censorship and ABFE, sent a letter to the commissioners expressing the hope that the First Amendment issues raised by the case will be discussed at the hearing.   A video of the hearing reveals that many in the audience opposed the effort to ban the books, including a mother who spoke movingly of her son, “my own princess boy.”

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Where: Buncombe County Schools, Asheville, North Carolina

Why: Bad language and inappropriate themes

What happened: The Kite Runner has been used in an honors English class for several years without objection.  When a teacher sent a note home to inform parents of the “complex and serious” issues raised by the novel, one parent complained and the book was removed from the classroom pending a review.

Outcome: Challenge rejected on July 2.  

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Where: Century Junior High School, Orland Park, Illinois

Why: LGBTQ themes

What happened: A parent requested that this graphic novel be removed from Century Junior High School’s media center because it “promotes an LGBTQ agenda” and “encourages children to question their own identity and life choices.”  Drama is on the American Library Association’s top 10 challenged books list.  KRRP has written to the school principal to explain that withdrawing the book from the media center would violate the First Amendment because the Supreme Court has declared that school officials cannot remove books from libraries simply because they dislike the ideas they express.

Outcome: Decision pending. 


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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