In an open letter released Tuesday, 18 Alabama-based organizations called on the Alabama Legislature to oppose attempts to censor library materials.
The letter largely reads as a response to another letter sent in by the state’s two Moms for Liberty chapters, in Madison and Baldwin counties, calling on lawmakers to “protect children” from material they find objectionable in the state’s public libraries.
“We … are gravely concerned at the misinformation spread about our Alabama libraries by the anti-government, extremist group, Moms for Liberty, in their press release dated January 3, 2023,” the organizations wrote in the letter. “In their statement, Emily Jones and Rebecca Watson, representatives from Madison and Baldwin County Moms for Liberty chapters, respectively, paint a picture of Alabama libraries, the materials, and the professionals that work within them that simply is false … The groups Moms for Liberty and Clean Up Alabama have spilled much ink to lead the people of Alabama to believe our libraries are both full of pornography and operate to “sexualize and groom” children. Both statements are patently false.”
The Moms for Liberty letter specifically focused on an alleged incident in which a 9-year-old boy in Madison County check out the book “All Boys Aren’t Blue.”
“Situations like this will continue to happen to well-meaning citizens that support libraries because these books are what the ALA is currently promoting,” the Moms for Liberty letter said.
The new letter, from organizations including multiple chapters of Read Freely Alabama as well as several Democrat organizations and other groups from the affected areas, points out that “All Boys Are Blue” is not in the children’s section in Madison County, meaning if a 9-year-old boy checked out the book, he got it from a section intended for patrons 12 and up. In Baldwin County, the book is not even in the young adult section, but in the biography section.
“This book is not located in any library in the state in a section designated for 9 year old library patrons and Moms for Liberty’s demand that libraries should be acting in the role of parent or guardian to ensure their children do not check out books that they do not want them to see is highly incongruous with their platform of parents’ rights and their motto that they “don’t want to co-parent with the government,'” the coalition wrote in its letter.
The letter also rebuts Moms for Liberty’s portrait of the book as pornographic, noting that one passage highlighted as pornographic is actually a description of incestual sexual abuse.
“Here, they conflate the author’s retelling of childhood sexual abuse as pornographic or sexually explicit storytelling, a claim that is offensive to anyone who has experienced sexual abuse,” the coalition wrote. “Alabama, by the most recent data, has the second-highest number of reported child sexual abuse victims per capita … Our state also has been designated as having the worst laws for adult victims of child sexual abuse to seek justice, with one of the shortest statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse survivors in the nation.”
The letter also asks the Legislature to resist the proposed actions Moms for Liberty and Clean Up Alabama have suggested, including disaffiliating from the American Library Association and tying state funding to collection policies.
“Making rash legislative decisions like leaving the ALA could have dire consequences for many of our rural Alabama libraries that receive funding from them for a variety of projects,” the coalition wrote. “The ALA has begun awarding more than $7 million in grants to help small and rural libraries make their spaces and programs accessible to individuals with disabilities, for instance. Five libraries in Alabama have already received grants in the first round of that funding.
“We also encourage Alabama residents, including our legislators, to learn about the extensive policies and procedures that our Alabama libraries and librarians already have in place from collections development to reconsideration policies by visiting your local libraries and attending local library board meetings.
“Finally, instead of tying state funding of our libraries to the censorship demands of the members of this anti-government extremist organization, Moms for Liberty, we encourage the legislature to invest more funding into our library systems generally, especially given the unprecedented backlash these essential public institutions continue to face.”
The letter is signed by the following organizations:
- Read Freely Alabama, Madison County Chapter
- Tennessee Valley Progressive Alliance
- Grace Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa
- Tuscaloosa Action
- North Alabama Democratic Socialists of America
- Formore Editorial Services
- Fairhope Public Library
- United Women of Color
- Birmingham Democratic Socialists of America
- Defense of Democracy
- Huntsville Urban Bike Share Coop
- Read Freely Alabama, Mobile Chapter
- One Mobile
- Mobile, AL NAACP
- Prism United
- Friends of the Fairhope Library
- Read Freely Alabama, Cullman Chapter