Removes schools and certain public libraries from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions alleging: (1) the dissemination of material harmful to minors; or (2) a performance harmful to minors.
The inclusion of The King James Bible in a high school library was challenged based upon a California statute that ‘exclude[d] from school and school libraries all books, publications, or papers of a sectarian, partisan, or denominational character.’ The California Supreme Court rejected the petitioner's argument, stating that: "The mere act of purchasing a book to be added to the school library does not carry with it any implication of the adoption of the theory or dogma contained therein, or any approval of the book itself, except as a work of literature fit to be included in a reference library."
Books Challenged: The Merchant of Venice and Oliver Twist
The inclusion of these books in the New York City Secondary Schools' approved reading and study material list was challenged based upon their portrayal of Jewish characters. The Supreme Court for Kings' County dismissed the action, stating that "Except where a book has been maliciously written for the apparent purpose of promoting and fomenting a bigoted and intolerant hatred against a particular racial or religious group, public interest in a free and democratic society does not warrant or encourage the suppression of any book at the whim of any unduly sensitive person or group of persons, merely because a character described in such book as belonging to a particular race or religion is portrayed in a derogatory or offensive manner."
A parent of a high school student challenged the inclusion of this book in the high school curriculum, arguing that its reference to religious matters violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court of Appeals of Michigan rejected this argument, stating "If plaintiff's contention was correct, then public school students could no longer marvel at Sir Galahad's saintly quest for the Holy Grail, nor be introduced to the dangers of Hitler' Mein Kampf nor read the mellifluous poetry of John Milton and John Donne. Unhappily, Robin Hood would be forced to forage without Friar Tuck and Shakespeare would have to delete Shylock from The Merchant of Venice. Is this to be the state of our law? Our Constitution does not command ignorance; on the contrary, it assures the people that the state may not relegate them to such a status and guarantees to all the precious and unfettered freedom of pursuing one's own intellectual pleasures in one's own personal way."
Books Challenged: Catch-22, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and Cat's Cradle
Five public high school students objected to the inclusion of these books in the high school curriculum and in the school library. The 6th Circuit found that the First Amendment protects the right of the students to receive information and that a decision to remove the books from the school library was unconstitutional.
Students challenged a Kansas school board's decision to remove this book, which depicts a romantic relationship between two teenage girls, from the school district's secondary school libraries. The court found that the school board's actual motivation for removing the book from the library was disapproval of the ideas contained therein, and thus the removal violated the First Amendment.
Books Challenged: Down These Mean Streets, The Naked Ape, Slaughterhouse Five, and others
A local school board deemed a number of books "anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy" and directed their removal from junior high school and high school libraries. The Supreme Court ultimately remanded the case back to the District Court finding that there was a genuine issue of material fact that precluded summary judgment. Nevertheless, the Court articulated the view that although local school boards have broad discretion in the management of school affairs, this discretion must be exercised in a manner that comports with the First Amendment, that the First Amendment rights of students may be directly implicated by the removal of books from the shelves of a school library, and that local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.
Books Challenged: Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy's Roommate
A group of local residents objected to the inclusion of these books, which depict children with gay and lesbian patents, in the children's section of the public library. In response, the City of Wichita Falls passed a resolution providing that residents could remove books from the children's section by gathering 300 signatures of library card holders; the resolution provided for no avenue of review or appeal. The District Court granted an injunction against the enforcement of the resolution on the grounds that it violated the constitutional right to receive information, the City could not demonstrate that the restriction was necessary to achieve a compelling government interest, and that allowing 300 citizens to remove any books they find objectionable amounted to a heckler's veto.
Book Challenged: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
A public school student's parent objected to the inclusion of this book in school libraries. Thereafter, the school board voted to restrict access to the book, as well as the rest of the Harry Potter series, by shelving them out of view and requiring parental permission to check them out. The school board's reasoning was that the books encouraged disobedience and involved matters of witchcraft and the occult. The court found that there was no evidence that would have led the school board members to reasonably believe that the books would cause a disruption in the schools were student allowed to have unfettered access to them. Further, it is impermissible to restrict access to books on the basis of the ideas expressed therein. Consequently, the school board's decision to restrict access to the Harry Potter books was found to violate the First Amendment.