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Lawsuit against Prattville Library policy featured on MSNBC

Representatives of Read Freely Alabama and the Alabama Library Association joined MSNBC Sunday to discuss their suit against the library’s policy.

Alabama Library Association immediate past president Matthew Layne and Read Freely Alabama cofounder Angie Hayden join Charles Coleman on MSNBC's The Velshi Show on Sunday, May 26. (VIA THE VELSHI SHOW)
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The Autauga-Prattville Public Library made the national spotlight once again over the weekend as MSNBC dedicated more than 10 minutes of airtime to the lawsuit against the library’s anti-LGBTQ policy.

The library had already garnered national attention earlier this year when the board fired director Andrew Foster and multiple other employees, with Foster appearing on CNN’s The Source with Kaitlan Collins.

Sunday, Read Freely Alabama founder Angie Hayden and Alabama Library Association immediate past president Matthew Layne spoke with MSNBC about their federal lawsuit against the library’s policy.

Layne said the the policy, passed by the newly constituted board in February, is overbroad in its language in an attempt to “say gay without actually saying gay.”

“I mean, that’s the long and short of it. But what they’ve done is written a policy so incredibly broad that really no children’s book now qualifies to be on the shelves of the Autauga-Prattville Library,” Layne said.

The Prattville Library has been the central battleground in the now statewide push to challenge LGBTQ+ material for minors 17 and under. The groups challenging books—Clean Up Alabama, Moms for Liberty and Eagle Forum—have emphasized “sexually explicit content” as their target, while continuing to push for policies that go beyond sexual content specifically to include books regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Hayden urged viewers to support their local librarians, as the challenges have rippled across the nation as one of the latest culture war touchstones.

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“I think the most important thing is to show up, form a relationship with your librarians because the year has been incredibly difficult for them, and show up to your library board meetings because the extremists certainly are showing up in numbers,” Hayden said. “It is kind of ironic because Alabama is such an individual rights kind of state, a small government is often the cry, and what we have discovered is that a lot of people only, only mean that when it applies to viewpoints they agree with.”

Read Freely and the ALLA are two plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed earlier this month challenging the policy on claims that it is vague and overboard as well as discriminatory against LGBTQ viewpoints.

The policy has now been somewhat reinforced by the Alabama Public Library Service, requiring all libraries in the state to adopt similar policies in order to receive state funding. The difference is the new requirement from the state does not include language about “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” like Prattville’s policy.

It does, however, include vague language about “materials deemed inappropriate for minors.”

APLS board member and ALGOP chair John Wahl told APR that could be interpreted to mean the materials are deemed inappropriate by the local library board or APLS.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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