The National Coalition Against Censorship called on public libraries of Washington County, Utah to reconsider a ban on LGBTQ displays. Joined by the National Council of Teachers of English, and LGBT civil rights group Lambda Legal, the letter warns that the current ban poses a serious threat to equal rights and freedom of expression and sets a dangerous precedent by perpetuating a culture of prejudice and intolerance.
“A culture of prejudice is toxic in any community forum, especially the library where everyone should be equally welcome and guaranteed freedom to read, think and explore new ideas,” the letter states. The ban, as the organizations point out, can also be seen as an impermissible act of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“As public institutions, libraries may determine the time, place and manner in which materials are exhibited, but they have a constitutional obligation not to deny access to material or otherwise discriminate on the basis of viewpoint,” the letter states. “Not only is suppressing LGBTQ displays likely to be a violation of the First Amendment, it further marginalizes a vulnerable minority group and would set a dangerous precedent of intolerance to purportedly controversial ideas.”
“Handling complaints about library displays can be challenging, but banning material just because some find it controversial is a violation of core constitutional principles,” warns Abena Hutchful, coordinator of NCAC’s youth programs. “A public library’s mission is to foster a culture of inclusion, open dialogue, and tolerance.”
The letter encourages Washington County libraries to establish transparent, viewpoint-neutral procedures for handling complaints about displays. The organizations offered to assist the county in developing such procedures.
The full letter can be read here.