by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read
First Liberty sent a letter this week asking the Madison Public Library in Huntsville, Alabama to reschedule a story hour event with our client Kirk Cameron and Brave Books, a Christian children’s book publisher.
The library recently canceled the book reading scheduled for Saturday, August 5, saying there were “security concerns” and “concerns over capacity.” Brave Books is launching its “See You at the Library” event that day “to promote free speech in our libraries and schools.” They are calling Americans “across the nation to pray, sing, and read BRAVE Books.” Approximately 250 of these story hours are planned out nationwide.
We explain that canceling the event is religious viewpoint and content discrimination that violates the Constitution. Our letter states:
“It may be just one event—just a story time at the local library by a Christian children’s book author—that you have cancelled. Large or small, such unbridled censorship impacts the freedom of speech upon which we all depend in this free society.”
We’re asking the library to confirm that “Brave Books and Mr. Cameron may utilize the Madison Public Library to host the “See You at the Library” event on Saturday, August 5, 2023.”
Senators Demand Investigation into American Library Association’s Religious Discrimination
Additionally, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida—along with Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana and Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota—also sent a letter recently to the Institute of Museum and Library Services demanding an investigation into the American Library Association’s (ALA) potential misuse of taxpayer dollars to silence Brave Books.
In June, an ALA official provided guidance on how to prevent story hours held by Brave Books from happening at libraries. At the same time, however, the ALA has continued to promote “Drag Queen Story Hours” that expose minors to sexual topics.
The senators’ letter comes less than a month after our attorneys first sent a letter calling for an investigation of religious discrimination by the ALA, after ALA leader Deborah Caldwell-Stone targeted our clients based on their religious beliefs.
“As a recipient of federal funds, the ALA is prohibited from using taxpayer dollars to violate the First Amendment,” the letter states. The senators also make clear that religious groups and organizations deserve equal treatment under the law:
“The ALA is actively discriminating against Brave Books on account of their faith and is likely doing so with taxpayer funds…Public libraries must remain open to the public, and their availability should not be subject to the political whims of the ALA…Brave Books deserves the same opportunity to host and organize events in public libraries as other groups.”
Caldwell-Stone—who holds the Orwellian ALA title, “Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom”—criticized our clients for encouraging local community members to use libraries to read books with a religious perspective. Speaking to those gathered for the “Library 2023 Worldwide Virtual Conference,” she wrongly suggested that the aim of our clients is to “censor LGBTQIA materials or disparage or silence LGBTQIA library users, (and) exploit the open nature of a public library.” She even suggested that our clients’ “See You at the Library” campaign is somehow an endeavor to “take over libraries.” She said public libraries should “construct policies and procedures that will help you keep control of the library.”
“While claiming to promote equality and diversity, the ALA is conspiring to deny access to thousands of citizens based upon open intolerance of their religious beliefs,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First liberty. “Such actions are blatantly unconstitutional. Federal taxpayers should not be required to fund such bigotry and intolerance.”
It’s unconstitutional to deny people of faith access to a meeting room of a public library. But those in charge of our nation’s libraries do not appear to be getting the message that it is wrong and illegal to exclude religious Americans from using library facilities. Federal law expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. Public libraries and other government agencies must treat religious individuals and organizations the same as everyone else, including equal access to public spaces.