Illinois becomes first state to pass bill aimed at preventing book bans

NBC 5 Chicago – May 3, 2023

The Illinois Senate has passed a measure that would help to prevent the practice of banning books, which Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias says is in response to efforts in other states to restrict access to reading materials for political and personal reasons.

HB 2789 had previously passed the House earlier this year, and will now head to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for signature, according to a press release from Giannoulias’ office.

“The concept of banning books contradicts the very essence of what our country stands for,” Giannoulias said in a statement. “It also defies what education is all about: teaching our children to think for themselves.”

The terms of the bill authorize the secretary of state’s office to restrict funding from libraries that don’t adhere to the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights, according to the press release, which says that reading materials should not be removed or restricted because of partisan or personal reasons.

The ALA reported at least 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois, up significantly from the previous year, according to the press release.

More than 2,500 books were objected to during 2022, according to the group.

The efforts to restrict access to specific books have gained national prominence in recent months, with proponents saying that parents should be given more control over the education of their children. Opponents of book bans say that not only are some of the bans too vague to be practical, but that they violate free speech provisions and have a negative impact on educating children, as they’re restricted from a wide-range of ideas and thoughts.

Laws that would seek to make it easier for books to be removed from libraries have passed in several other states, including in Missouri and Indiana, and legislation is also up for debate in Louisiana, according to activists.

Florida has also gained national attention for their efforts at restricting specific books in school libraries.