Fight Book Bans Act introduced to Congress

The U.S. Capitol building

In response to the constant efforts nationwide by conservatives to ban LGBTQ+ books from school libraries, U.S. Representative Maxwell Frost (D-Florida) has introduced the Fight Book Bans Act into Congress. The announcement of the bill’s introduction was made last week at a press conference held at the Capitol by Frost and a number of the bill’s numerous co-sponsors — all Democrats.

The Fight Book Bans Act is not angled toward ending book bans directly. Instead, the bill would help fund the cost school districts incur while moving through the process of reviewing books which have been challenged. The bill would appropriate $15 million over the next five years, and would grant up to $100,000 per school district to go through the challenge process via the Department of Education.

Book challenges are expensive, costing school districts hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the number of books being challenged. One example: in Berkeley County, South Carolina, the district spent over $6,000 simply acquiring half of the 93 books challenged by one woman, a member of Moms for Liberty, the extremist conservative advocacy group spearheading most of the book ban attempts across the country.

In a press release, Frost said, “Book bans in Florida and in states across the nation are a direct attack on our freedoms and liberties everywhere. As my home state shamefully leads the country in book bans, we cannot let this censorship and dismantling of our education system go unchecked. What we are seeing in Florida and states like Texas, Utah and Missouri are loud and clear attempts by far-right conservative leaders to silence and erase our Black, brown, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities. The Fight Book Bans Act takes a stand against censorship to firmly stand on the side of history, education, our students, teachers, and schools who don’t deserve to suffer the consequences of radical politics in the classroom. This is about protecting our libraries and protecting truth and history.”

The bill is backed by several anti-censorship and anti-discrimination groups, including PEN America, ACLU National, American Library Association, Interfaith Alliance, The Trevor Project, Catholics for Choice, Color of Change, National Urban League, UnidosUS, Equality Florida, Florida Freedom to Read Project, Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT) and NAACP DC.

At the Capitol press conference, Rep. Jamie Raskin, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “America is in the middle of an escalating book ban crisis that requires our full attention and a strong response. Sinister campaigns to remove books from our schools and libraries are a hallmark of authoritarian and fascist regimes. Many books are being targeted for censorship these days simply because they address the historical realities of racism and white supremacy or address LGBTQ+ issues. I’m proud to join Rep. Frost to introduce this critical legislation, which will provide much-needed resources to the freedom-loving teachers, school librarians and school administrators working to keep books on our shelves.”

Among the dozens of congresspersons co-sponsoring the Fight Book Bans Act, members of the Pennsylvania contingent supporting the bill is Philadelphia Congressman Dwight Evans of the 3rd District, and Rep. Sunny Lee, of western PA’s 12th District.

In a written statement via email, Evans said, “As a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights, I’m proudly co-sponsoring the Fight Book Bans Act to help schools in Pennsylvania and across the country defend their students’ right to learn about LGBTQ history, African American history, and other topics that some want to censor.”It’s unclear how the bill will fare in Congress. Given the Republican majority in the House, and given the avowed virulent homophobia publicly displayed by House Speaker Mike Johnson, it’s unlikely the bill will make any progress in the current session. However, that could change dramatically if Democrats retake the House in the 2024 elections.

Newsletter Sign-up