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Banning Book Bans in Illinois

May 31, 2023

I’m writing with refreshingly good news: Illinois is poised to become the first state to end book bans. In the wake of an increasing onslaught of censorship aimed at institutions like schools and libraries – including a record 1,200 challenges to books over the past year – House Bill 2789 offers some hope.

H.B. 2789 was passed by the state Senate along party lines. If signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker, it would withhold state funding from Illinois school or public libraries that remove books from their shelves based on objections to their subject matter. Likewise, H.B. 2789 would withhold state funding from libraries that refuse to either adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights or adopt a similar statement prohibiting book banning. The Library Bill of Rights, in relevant part, states that libraries “should provide materials and information presenting all points of view,” “should challenge censorship,” and “should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.”

As Shia Kappos notes, this legislation has been led by Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, whose office oversees library systems and their funding. In a conversation with Kappos, Giannoulias said that efforts to ban books are “about restricting the freedom of ideas that certain individuals disagree with and that certain individuals think others should have access to.”

We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation echo Giannoulias’ comments about efforts to ban books: they are restrictions on our fundamental rights to free expression and free access to ideas. Banning book bans is a necessary step toward protecting those rights.

Free Speech

Photo of books

A photo of a stack of books. (Matt Kryger)

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