Are there any states in the US that still censor books?

Hi
Are there any states in the US that still censor books? Which Supreme Court rulings would override any local state laws if they chose to do so? Could individual states also states also censor or block internet websites?
I look forward to your feedback

NAL etc

What you’re looking for is known as the Incorporation of the Bill of Rights, specifically the First Amendment. In this case, freedom of speech applying to states was established in 1925 in Gitlow v New York, and perhaps relevantly freedom of the press was established in 1931 with Near v Minnesota.

So states have no power to stifle free speech. As far as internet websites, states may have a certain amount of leeway with communications laws (and of course can take down offending sites that violate other laws), but would probably mostly fall under freedom of speech. Though there is that Virginia porn tax proposal which is similar and may or may not be federally legal.

“Censoring books” is not a single coordinated activity done in an official book-censoring room - it’s done piecemeal by different people in different places. And probably most of the time it’s done by quietly deciding not to buy a certain book, rather than by removing a book that’s already there.

Thanks Jargon, but when a school district decides not to allowTo Kill a Mockingbird on a curriculum, (as was done in Duluth, Minnesota) is that not a violation of the First Amendment, and if not, why not?

Because people are still free to write, read and publish whatever they want. There’s no First Amendment right to be part of the curriculum.

There may be theoretical exceptions. I suppose the school district could get in trouble by refusing to carry any books by black authors, for example, but even there I don’t think it’s a first amendment issue.

Right. Old-school censorship of the sort of the state (or city) outright forbidding the publication or sale of a book under penalty of law is out and has been for a while. Quasi-independent public entities like a school district, however, who would have the authority to *mandate *that students *must *read the book, are free to make purchasing decisions.

The trick of course is to not turn it into an assertion and that book X or book Y has “wrong” content that* should not* be read. That the local parents’ board gets the vapours over something subversive to traditional beliefs, or the academics get triggered by period-appropriate portrayals, sure, that rightfully earns our derision and our calling upon those responsible to grow up.

Written depictions of child pornography are legal and protected speech. Photographic depictions are not. Any sexualized photographic depiction of a child under 18 is illegal. (Whether drawings are illegal is hotly contested.) Putting one into an otherwise legal book of words would make it subject to legal action. This is a federal offense, although states may also have laws on the subject.

Therefore internet sites can be taken down if pictures deemed to be of sexualized underage children are found on them. Purely written accounts remain legal.

States may also have laws concerning visual depictions of bestiality or other taboo subjects, but I don’t think there are any federal statutes on these.

There’s no law in Duluth that prohibits anyone from buying, selling or possessing To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s different from a school not including it in its curriculum.

Well, would you be in favor of forcing every school to have certain books on it’s curriculum?

Indeed – a district or state board could be empowered to establish a mandatory readings list (either categorical “these must be assigned in Grade 10” or discretionary “assign four out of these ten in Grade 10”) for schools within its jurisdiction, but then that would itself have the indirect effect of leaving something excluded as the students’ reading time is finite, and the question of why is X and not Y in the list would still stand.

BTW, Duluth dropped To Kill a Mockingbird (and Huck Finn) from the required reading list because they contained racial slurs, which apparently made some students uncomfortable. It said they remained optional choices if teachers wanted to teach them in their own class. While this choice is certainly controversial, given the actual message of both books is as anti-racism as could be, it’s hardly censorship under any meaningful definition of the word.

There are important things that make those books good. There are important things that make them also a problem. Whether to put them on a list of required reading depends on how you analyze the balance between the benefits and the problems.

There’s a mistaken belief that certain books are “Good” with a capital G, and that any problems with those “Good” (or “Essential” or whatever) books should be ignored.

There can be such a thing as a truly “must-read” book, in a technical field with a very small number of experts. If a certain non-fiction author is the only one who knows a topic, or is the only one who has written a useful book about it, then if you want to know the topic you literally must read that book.

Literature (fiction, poetry, etc) is not like that. Even Shakespeare, though great, and about as universally applicable as literature can be, is not always the best choice in every situation.

Thank you all. Very helpful