ST. MARYS, KS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has called on the St. Marys City Commission to continue to fund its library and abandon its proposed ban of certain materials.
As recently reported, the Pottawatomie Wabaunsee Regional Library faces a pending vote by the city to terminate its lease following the library’s refusal to remove all LGBTQ, sexual, racial, or otherwise “socially divisive” content.
Various community members testified at the commission meeting on Tuesday and have also contacted the ACLU of Kansas with their concerns about the proposed ban and the heavy-handed response by the city to essentially close the library, which arose largely in response to one individual’s concern over a single book about a transgender child.
“The residents of the various cities served by the library have a First Amendment right to the targeted content,” said Sharon Brett, Legal Director of the ACLU of Kansas. “And the St. Marys commission’s insistence on banning items containing content they don’t like could have constitutional implications when it comes to library patrons’ rights to free expression and the right to receive information.”
The commission’s request constitutes one of the most extreme examples of censorship in the state thus far and represents a localization of recent attacks on intellectual freedom nationwide.
“It's not too late for the commission to change course,” said Micah Kubic, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas. “Already the commission has toed the line of authoritarian censorship, which has historically silenced, stifled, and whitewashed the perspectives of marginalized groups of people.
“Ultimately, this is a truly troubling exercise of power by each member of the St. Marys Commission,” Kubic said. “The very framework of our democracy is held up by the education of its citizenry and by a society in which ideas are openly disseminated and debated, even when those in power disagree, and especially on deeply complex issues. We should all have the right to make up our own minds, and it’s dangerous territory when city authorities begin to toy with that right.”
The commission plans to vote on the library’s lease renewal at its Dec. 6 meeting. The ACLU of Kansas will continue to monitor the situation and consider all possible options.
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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.