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Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms That Texas Book Ban Law is Unconstitutional

Association of American Publishers: “The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today affirmed the preliminary injunction of the “Reader Act” (formerly HB 900) granted by Judge Alan D. Albright of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division in a written opinion issued on September 18, 2023.  The law would have required independent bookstores, national chain bookstores, large online book retailers, book publishers and other vendors to review and rate millions of books and other library materials according to sexual content if those books are sold to school libraries, and to do so according to vague labels dictated by the state without any process for judicial review. In affirming Judge Albright’s earlier ruling, Judge Don Willett of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that “Plaintiffs have an interest in selling books without being coerced to speak the State’s preferred message,” going on to say that he was “unpersuaded” by the State’s argument that the READER Act does not implicate Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. The Fifth Circuit also agreed with Judge Albright’s preliminary injunction that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their First Amendment claims, and “likely to sustain economic and constitutional injuries” if the law remained in effect.”

Publishers Weekly: “…Viewed by many as the most high profile of a wave of book banning laws at the state level, the law was signed by Texas governor Greg Abbott on June 12. The controversial law requires book vendors to review and rate books sold to Texas schools—both new books and books previously sold—for sexual content. Under the law, books rated “sexually explicit”—books with material deemed “patently offensive” by unspecified community standards—are banned entirely from Texas public schools. Books rated “sexually relevant”—books with any representation of sexual conduct—would require written parental permission for students to access them. Furthermore, the law gives the state the unchecked power to change the vendor rating on any book, and to bar vendors that do not accept the state’s ratings from selling to Texas schools.”

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