June 2024 Church & State Magazine - June 2024

Md. lawmakers pass measure designed to prevent book banning

 

Young girls reading a library book together inside

Protecting access: Maryland moves to curb censorship (Getty Images)

Legislators in Maryland have passed a Freedom to Read Act designed to curtail book bans.

Under the new law, which was signed by Gov. Wes Moore (D) in late April, public libraries and libraries in public schools can’t remove books simply because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval, reported the site BookRiot. Books also cannot be removed due to the author’s origin or background.

The law also states that when books are challenged, the titles must remain available during the review process. In some states, notably Florida, books are pulled from shelves as soon as they are challenged. As a result, Florida is leading the nation in the number of books banned.

The law also provides protections for library employees. It states that they can’t be “dismissed, suspended, disciplined, demoted, reassigned, transferred or otherwise retaliated against” for acquiring certain titles or keeping them in a library’s collection.

The legislation was introduced by Del. Dana Jones (D-Anne Arundle). During its introduction before the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Delegates, Jones asked several supporters to speak, among them Skip Dye, senior vice president of library sales and digital strategy for Penguin Random House, reported MarylandMatters.org.

“There is a dangerous, national trend of book banning,” Dye remarked. “It silences our authors. Book bans take a variety of forms [and] they include restrictions, they include removals and rating systems. By doing these things, they not only compromise the autonomy of libraries but also threaten the basis of our democratic society.”

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The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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