Courtroom Showdown Feds Grapple with Texas' Edict on 'Explicit' School Books

Courtroom Showdown Feds Grapple with Texas' Edict on 'Explicit' School BooksSource: Unsplash/IƱaki del Olmo
Matt Mitchell
Published on November 30, 2023

In an incendiary clash over the protection of youth versus the specter of censorship, a federal appeals court grilled proponents of a new Texas edict targeting "sexually explicit" content in school libraries, spawning a maelact of constitutionality. Probing deeply into the legislation's murky lexicon, judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday fired salvos of inquiry into House Bill 900—famously dubbed the READER Act—which commands book distributors to rate materials earmarked for schools on the basis of sexual content, as reported by CBS Austin.

Dredging into the nebulous depths, the legislation was halted by a federal judge in late August, citing it as unconstitutionally vague, a decision that Texas has since appealed. Squaring off against the statute, which necessitates book sellers, including ones hailing from outside the Texas State, to navigate through the impenetrable thicket of these new regulations, is a coalition—consisting of bookstores like Austin's BookPeople, Houston's Blue Willow Bookshop, and literary bigwigs such as the American Booksellers Association—branding the law an anathema to free speech, as stated in KXAN.

The champion of the bill, Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, remained unabated, touting on social media ahead of the hearing—asserting that his legislation bans sexually explicit materials from public school libraries. "I fought for and passed landmark legislation eliminating sexually explicit content from public school libraries," Patterson declared. "Please join me in prayer for victory tomorrow for Texas families who oppose the radical sexualization of our children."