It started with the Jews. Nazis believed that Germans were racially superior and that Jews were a threat to their community. So what did they do? Started a systemic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews. While others were also included in that attack—Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gay men, and any other group of people that they defined as “racially inferior” and a “threat” to their community—it started with the Jews.
Welcome to 2022, where the Jews have been replaced with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) and LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) people, and the Nazis have been replaced with the U.S. government. The systematic, state-sponsored plan of attack is book bans. In a recent article, the American Civil Liberties Union reported the following:
On June 22, 2022, our clients—local bookstores Prince Books, Read Books, One More Page Books, and bbgb tales for kids, as well as American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Inc., Authors Guild, Inc., American Library Association, Virginia Library Association, and Freedom to Read Foundation—filed motions seeking to dismiss obscenity proceedings against two books, highlighting the unconstitutional nature of the proceedings and noting that the books are not obscene as a matter of law.
The books are Gender Queer, a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, an autobiographical graphic novel that depicts the author’s experience as a non-binary person; and the fantasy novel A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas.
The proceedings were initiated pursuant to Virginia Code § 18.2-384—a law that has not been used for decades but which purports to allow any individual to file a petition claiming that any book is obscene. A judge is then tasked with determining whether there is probable cause to find that the book may be obscene. If so, the proceeding can result in a court order enjoining the distribution of the challenged book anywhere in the state of Virginia merely upon that finding of “probable obscenity.” And if the book is ultimately adjudged obscene based on local community standards, the proceeding will result in a presumption that anyone who sells or even lends the book knows it is legally obscene, opening the door to criminal prosecutions for book distribution.
Some will read this and say, “Well, they’re right! Kids should not be indoctrinated with LGBTQ or any sexual material!” I agree that organizations, from churches to school libraries, have the right to choose what material they offer to their audience. But that is not what these book bans are about. As the above ACLU article pointed out:
- Not only are the proceedings an abuse of the statute—which does not allow a determination of obscenity for minors, rather than the community writ large—but, as our clients argue, the statute is also unconstitutional.
- It vests in individual trial courts located in one city or county the authority to enjoin the sale, publication, and distribution of a book across Virginia—without requiring notice to all parties governed by the order (and requiring only four days’ notice to those parties the court does choose to notify), an adverse hearing, or even a final judicial determination that the book at issue is in fact obscene. This creates the risk that publishers, distributors, and booksellers who have no knowledge that a book has been so much as challenged—and who may never appear before the deciding court—may still be bound by the court’s order.
- Furthermore, after entry of a temporary restraining order or a final adjudication of a book’s obscenity, the government can impute knowledge of a book’s obscenity to anyone in the state who “publishes, sells, rents, lends, transports, . . . or commercially distributes or exhibits the book.” This raises the threat of liability for incredibly broad swaths of people—including booksellers, teachers, parents, and others—who, again, may not have had the chance to appear before the deciding court. In essence, it creates a strict liability regime for selling or lending books.
- Finally, because Virginia applies local rather than statewide community standards to determine obscenity, the law appears to unconstitutionally allow an injunction against the circulation of a book deemed legally “obscene” in one community in others where the book would likely not be held obscene at all.
The proceedings are currently pending before the Virginia Beach Circuit Court. Our clients are represented by the ACLU, the ACLU of Virginia, and Michael Bamberger of Dentons, general counsel to Media Coalition.
Like the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, this is not about whether you are pro-LGBTQ or BIPOC. [Remember, “critical race theory” is another area of book banning, with more than 25 states that have introduced legislation that could restrict or ban what students can learn and what teachers can teach about our nation’s history. More than 12 states have already passed versions of anti-truth laws or mandated similar statewide policies. Click here for more information.] This is not just about the government’s intrusion on not only our civil liberties, freedom of speech, and human rights. This is about the government dictating your EVERY move, right down to what you eat, what you consume, and how you earn a living. What you allow and TOLERATE, especially when it does not seem like you are the target group, is the gateway to total control and dominion. If you sit on the sidelines now because it’s “just the Jews” they are targeting, you will soon find yourself being added to the “inferior” list and wondering, “How did we get here?”
Remember, the Holocaust was caused by many factors, the primary one being millions of ordinary people choosing to actively participate in, and TOLERATE, the murder and persecution of their neighbors. Are you an active participant or a tolerator when it comes to the modern-day Holocaust known as book bans? Or are you fired up, mad as hell, and ready to do something about it? What can you do? Click here for my free resource on how you can take action in your state concerning book bans. If you’re in Virginia, I have additional information for you to join us in this fight.