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Tickets are now on sale for the Children’s Book Art Auction at BookExpo! Co-sponsored by ABFFE and the ABC Children’s Group, proceeds will go to support ABFFE’s defense of the free speech rights of young readers. This year's auction will be hosted by Jarrett J. Krosoczka who has written a letter urging artists and illustrators to donate to the auction. A donation form and auction FAQ have also been posted online. Click on the image above to purchase tickets!

 Booksellers File Supreme Court Brief

Booksellers sent a message to the U.S. Supreme Court last week.  ABFFE joined 14 bookstores and four regional bookseller associations as well as librarians, publishers and other media organizations in submitting a friend-of-the-court brief in a case that could make it harder to challenge laws that violate the First Amendment before they can chill free speech. The brief asks the Court to reaffirm its 1988 ruling in Virginia v. American Booksellers Association that plaintiffs may challenge a law affecting free speech whenever they have "an actual and well-founded fear" that the law will be enforced against them. The case currently before the Court, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, was dismissed under a stricter test.


A "pre-enforcement" challenge is a critical tool for protecting free speech. It enables a person who believes that a law violates their First Amendment rights to seek a court ruling on its constitutionality and to request a preliminary injunction that suspends the law until the court has made its decision. This protects plaintiffs from the threat of prosecution and lessens the danger that they will engage in self-censorship out of fear they might run afoul of the law. Booksellers can continue to do business normally while the issue is being litigated, which often takes years.


Our brief was drafted by lawyers for Media Coalition, the organization that has defended the First Amendment rights of booksellers and other media groups since 1973. Booksellers have been plaintiffs in all of the pre-enforcement challenges filed by Media Coalition over the last 35 years. We overturned all 23 of the challenged laws.


More than 30 bookstores and bookseller associations were plaintiffs in those cases. The 14 who signed the Supreme Court brief are Annie Bloom's Books, Changing Hands Bookstore, Harvard Bookstore, Paulina Springs Books, Powell's Books, Schuler Books & Music, Tattered Cover Bookstore, The King's English Bookshop, Weller Book Works, Village Books, the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.


Media Coalition has created an interactive map of the cases cited. Additionally, the brief is available here.

Chris Finan's recent column in Bookselling this Week discusses the important role that booksellers play in the legal fight for free speech.

(Media Coalition's interactive map of the cases cited
 in the brief.)

ABFFE Urges Obama to End CIA Obstruction of Oversight

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), the bookseller’s voice in the fight against censorship, has joined civil liberties and open government groups in urging President Obama to speed the release of a Congressional report on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program that detained suspected terrorists in secret prisons and subjected them to coercive interrogation techniques following the 9/11 attacks.  The Senate Intelligence Committee has been seeking to declassify its 6,000-page report, which is reportedly highly critical of the CIA.  The CIA, which claims it contains errors, has been blocking it.

ABFFE and 33 other organizations sent the president a letter asking him to declassify the report and stop the CIA from interfering with the Congressional committees that are charged with ensuring that government intelligence agencies are complying with the law.  “The public has a right to know the details of the detention and interrogation program.  It also needs assurance that Congress is not prevented from overseeing secret government programs that could threaten civil liberties,” ABFFE President Chris Finan said.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chair of the intelligence committee, charged last week that the CIA had spied on the committee staff and surreptitiously removed hundreds of pages of documents from a committee computer.  The CIA denies this and accuses the committee of illegally obtaining a copy of its internal review of the interrogation program.  Both charges are being investigated by the Obama administration. 

Protest at Tattered Cover Continues

Demonstrators are continuing to picket the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver in an effort to force it to abandon its long-standing policy of non-partisanship on political issues. Several groups that advocate on behalf of the homeless began demonstrating at Tattered Cover in December because the store belongs to the Denver Downtown Partnership, which supports an ordinance that bans "urban camping" on city streets. The protesters, sometimes accompanied by bullhorns and drums, are urging customers to boycott Tattered Cover.           

In a statement that is being handed to demonstrators and customers, Tattered Cover says that its policy of non-partisanship is one of the ways it promotes free expression for its customers. "We do not inhibit them by pushing our own individual agendas or any official store position; nor do we allow a vocal minority from outside to coerce us into deciding for those who visit our store what they 'should' be reading, thinking or promoting," the statement says.          

Tattered Cover has a long history of advocacy on behalf of free speech--in the state legislature, Congress, and the courts-both state and federal. Owner Joyce Meskis says this is the only exception the store will make in its policy of non-partisanship.   





Who's Afraid of A Few Chilean Ghosts?

Apparently ghosts have scared the heck out of some parents in North Carolina. Isabel Allende's The House of Spirits was set to be taught last year in a 10th grade honors class in Watauga High School, North Carolina, but instead was left to gather dust as the community debated its merits. The conflict began when a few parents complained about sexual situations described in the book.  Although the teacher, Mary Kent Whitaker, offered students the opportunity to "opt out" and read Moby Dick, these parents wanted the book removed from the curriculum.  Since then, the book, and the kids who wanted to read it, have been in limbo. Acacia O'Connor, coordinator of the Kids' Right to Project(KRRP), has been following the case, offering encouragement to the teacher and her students and alerting the press. KRRP was co-founded by ABFFE and National Coalition Against Censorship. It provides resources to students, parents, teachers and librarians who are fighting book challenges at the local level.   

The brouhaha over the book is surprising considering The House of Spirits is included in North Carolina's Common Core Curriculum for 10th grade literature classes.  Allende has spoken out in support of Ms. Whitaker, who is Watauga Teacher of the Year.  Students have also been very active in defense of the book and their teacher. 

After several KRRP letters, school board meetings and pressure from the ACLU, the school board finally met on February 27 to decide the fate of House of Spirits. A close 3-2 vote in a favor of retaining the book finally sealed the matter(at least for the 2014 school year.)  Unfortunately, FOX News aired a report several days later, condemning the book and commending the parents who fought to remove it.  

Free Speech

Read ABFFE's Interview with Betty Medsger, author of the book The Burglary