Book bans use ‘parental rights’ as cover to attack civil liberties, Democrat warns

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Pocket
WhatsApp
Book bans use ‘parental rights’ as cover to attack civil liberties, Democrat warns

The growing number of book bans in the US are using a so-called parental rights movement as cover for a wide-ranging attack on civil rights in America, a Democratic congressman has warned.

Earlier this month, a new study by PEN America revealed that there had been at least 5,894 book bans in US public schools from July 2021 to June 2023, with more than 40% of them in Florida, birthplace of a rightwing parents group called Moms for Liberty.

The books targeted are frequently those which tackle issues like racism, gender or LGBTQ+ rights.

“Book bans are a baseless attack on our civil rights and civil liberties under the guise of parental rights,” warned the Florida congressman Maxwell Frost, who introduced the Fight Banned Books Act earlier this month.

“If the arts and literature our students read are getting attacked, what will happen next?” Frost told the Guardian in an interview.

On 5 December, alongside Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and Congressman Jamie Raskin, he unveiled the planned legislation and vowed to take a stand against censorship by providing grants to school districts to fight them.

“We found that one of the real problems in Florida after the book gets officially taken off the shelves is that school boards do not have the resources necessary to battle the book bans and get the books back on the shelves,” Frost said.

The proposed legislation, if passed, would counter this issue on a national level; with a $15m budget, the Department of Education would provide $100,00 to school districts fighting bans in their communities.

According to recent PEN America data, the past two school years have highlighted a mounting censorship crisis with a sustained focus on books written for young adults. Frequently, titles focusing on “difficult topics” like violence or racism or including historically marginalized identities are being targeted.

“Books are one of the last places of refuge that we have as students, as students of color, as queer students, and now that’s being taken away from us too,” Frost said.

“Last year, 70% of Gen Z voted for Democrats in the midterms, so I guess these young people don’t like their rights being taken away.”

Frost added: “There’s still an opportunity to mold and change the way a generation thinks.”

Far-right pressure has been one of the leading causes of book banning in the US over the last two years. These bans are pushed locally, by parents or parent-led groups, or by politicians through broader state-level laws.

The Fight Book Bans Act, which already has the support of 50 members of Congress, would try to stop these pressures. The grants would cover expenses like legal representation or the travel to hearings and would also provide school districts with expert research and advice when trying to fight off book bans in their local libraries.

Frost describes himself as a “product of public education” and says that without access to essential books growing up, he probably wouldn’t be a member of Congress right now. As a Gen Z politician appealing to young voters across the country, he also uses his position to bring awareness to crucial issues in unique and engaging ways.

“We rarely do just a press conference,” he said. “We’ve got to add a little spice.”

After a recent press event, Frost held a banned book reading in his office. Community leaders and students gathered to share excerpts of literature banned in their state. He said he wasn’t expecting it to be as emotional as it was, but that people started crying.

“You hear these beautiful words of literature, of poetry, of art, and you’re sitting there surrounded by a lot of people you might not know, and the whole time you’re listening, in the back of your head, you’re thinking, wow, this is banned, this is banned in a school.”

Frost chose to read excerpts from Amanda Gorman’s poem The Hill We Climb, which is restricted in schools across his home state.

“After I finished, I told everyone there, just a second ago, when one of our speakers was reading, I closed my eyes and decided to recommit myself to this fight.”

Read More

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Pocket
WhatsApp

Never miss any important news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Get notified about new articles