The Escambia County, FL, school district stripped its libraries of books the state wanted gone. In response, PEN America — an organization dedicated to free speech — and the publisher, Penguin Books, sued the district. They were concerned because many of the banned books had LGBT themes — including “And Tango Makes Three," whose authors joined the suit.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed an amicus brief supporting the school board’s decision. In it, Moody argued she was protecting free speech rights — the government’s, not the individual’s. The language in her brief was totalitarian.
Let us parse it.
Moody gets to the point quickly. In her request to file the brief, she establishes who she thinks should control children’s minds, writing:
“the State has a substantial interest in preserving the government’s authority to decide for itself what materials to curate in its public-school libraries.”
So much for parents being in control of their children’s education. But you already knew that the “parent’s rights” sanctimony was just authoritarian window dressing.
In the brief’s “Introduction and Statement of Interest,” Moody outlines PEN and Penguin’s case:
"The restrictions, Plaintiffs say, violate the First Amendment because the government may not restrict access to materials “based on viewpoint” or “deny students access to ideas with which” the “school board disagrees.”
I suspect that Moody overstates the plaintiff’s case as she has chopped up the quotes — who knows what she left out.
Next, she defends the school board’s right to throw out LGBTQ literature by equating it with the most reprehensible thing she can think of.
“But public school systems make value-based judgments like that every day. They exclude materials like Nazi propaganda because they disagree that Nazis were wonderful, regardless of any educational value the materials may have.”
It is unconscionable. Who the feck is saying the Nazis were wonderful? Certainly not the authors of And Tango Makes Three. Moody should check her own basement. She then states her case:
"Viewpoint-based educational choices are constitutionally permissible because public school systems, including their libraries, convey the government’s message, and, when the government speaks, it may “regulate the content of . . . its own message.”
“The government's message”? Why not just say that she believes schools exist to promulgate government propaganda — just like the Nazis did. That is an appropriate Nazi reference, as point #20 of the Nazi’s 25-point platform includes this:
“The aim of the school must be to give the pupil, beginning with the first sign of intelligence, a grasp of the notion of the State (through the study of civic affairs).”
If Moody’s language was not yet incendiary enough, she adds that the plaintiffs:
“Have no constitutional right to inculcate Florida’s school children with their preferred ideas through Florida’s school libraries.”
If you suspect that Moody is starting to ‘project’ — “inculcate Florida’s school children” — just wait. Moody then rejects the plaintiffs' argument that school libraries are non-public forums and the School Board cannot restrict access to materials based on viewpoint. She writes:
“That is wrong because Florida’s public school libraries are a forum for government, not private, speech. And when the government speaks, it “can freely select the views that it wants to express, including choosing not to speak and speaking through the removal of speech that the government disapproves.”
OMG! Please make it stop. “Removal of speech that the government disapproves.”? When will she start playing Horst-Wessel-Lied (aka "Raise the Flag")?
Moody then argues that because the government can choose which statues to put in public parks, it can select which books can be in school libraries. It makes sense to her.
To give her credit, she is indefatigable in her naked honesty that schools should be government propaganda factories, saying:
“By curating a school library, the government conveys its view on which books have the “requisite and appropriate quality” to bolster student development.”
She adds that regular folks should butt out and leave the field clear for the state propagandists:
“Absurd results would follow if private parties were allowed to hijack the government’s message by forcing their preferred books onto school library shelves.
She then gets back to the projection alluded to above:
“If every citizen were to have a right to insist” that his preferred books be included in a school’s library, “debate over issues of great concern to the public would be limited to those in the private sector.”
What does she think the effects are of Florida laws enabling individuals to get books banned because the individual does not like them? What are her feelings about fake grassroots groups purporting to represent parents in book-banning orgies? It is a rhetorical question. She has the zealot’s mindset. It is only a crime when the other guys do it.
“The policy manual confirms that Defendant’s libraries are not a forum for free expression, warning that “[n]o parent, guardian or resident of the county has the right to determine the reading, viewing or listening resources for students other than their own children.”
Did she write this with a straight face? Is she drunk or suffering a stroke? Has she been hit in the head? Has she forgotten the laws Florida has enacted enabling book-burning bigots? Or is she just an Olympic-caliber hypocrite?
In conclusion, Moody says the government cannot be guilty of discrimination because it can say whatever it wants — except to establish a religion.
“Plaintiffs also claim that “[m]any of these books have been targeted simply because they address themes relating to race, sexuality, or gender identity” and, from that they infer the “intent . . . to exclude speech by authors based on their race, sexuality, or gender identity.”
In other words, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant’s governmental message constitutes invidious discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. That claim fails for the same reason as Plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims: “[A] government entity is entitled to say what it wishes and to select the views it wants to express,” with a notable exception for the establishment of religion.”
Note that Moody did not deny the government was discriminating. She instead claims that government discrimination is legal. You could also argue that banning books on religious grounds is tantamount to establishing a religion.
No doubt, if you asked Moody if she was acting like a fascist, she would deny it. But that denial would have all the credibility of a stumbling drunk, reeking of alcohol, telling the traffic cop, “I only had two beers.”