Illinois Secretary of State advocates for freedom of speech and fights against book bans

By Scott Schneider Published September 12, 2023

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias delivered the opening salvo in a Senate judiciary hearing Tuesday on Illinois’ ban on book bans, which takes effect early next year.

"Books are a vital way to open our minds to other cultures, religions, identities and possibilities," he said.

Following his return from Washington, Giannoulias stopped by the FOX 32 to talk about his testimony.

"I have three young daughters, there are certain books that my wife and I feel are inappropriate for them to read, but the thought that I would tell another family or another group of parents what books their kids should or should not be reading is unfathomable."

More than 2500 book titles were banned nationwide last year, including American classics "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" for their graphic depictions of race and slavery.

Also testifying Tuesday against banning books was U of I professor Emily Knox, who spoke to FOX 32. Knox counters the argument made by critics that those titles are too antiquated to be considered relevant today.

"Pair Huck Finn with the narrative life of Frederick Douglass—there are lots of ways of doing that—you will encounter language that is hurtful—that’s part of learning about our history," Knox said.

Those testifying before the committee in opposition to Illinois’ ban on book bans argue the First Amendment does not guarantee a child’s exposure to pornography.

"That’s what this issue is really about—the provision of sexually explicit material to children by public employees," testified Max Eden, a Research Fellow at American Enterprise Institute.

Giannoulias calls that argument "political misdirection."

"This is about freedom of speech—about what it is to educate and that is to teach children to think for themselves," he said.

In addition to his legislative efforts, the Secretary of State's office has launched a dedicated website, This platform serves as a resource for individuals to share their personal stories related to book bans and censorship. It also provides guidance on how to protect one's right to read and access information freely.