Let’s Shutter the Libraries . . . and Drain the Public Pools While We’re At It.
In Bible Believers v. Wayne County, the ACLU — yes, that ACLU — filed an amicus brief in support of protesting evangelists who were threatened with arrest if they did not leave the 2012 Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan. Agreeing with the ACLU’s position, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the police “violated the First Amendment by ejecting the evangelists based on others’ violent reactions to their highly offensive speech.” One judge said:
“The beauty of our First Amendment is that it affords the same protections to all speakers, regardless of the content of their message. If we encroach on the free-speech rights of groups that we dislike today, those same doctrines can be used in the future to suppress freedom of speech for groups that we like.” See Heckler’s Veto (“When someone exercises their First Amendment right to free speech, the government is not allowed to shut down the speech just because other people don’t like the message that is being conveyed. This is known as the rule against a ‘heckler’s veto.’”) (emphasis added).
Taking Their Ball and Going Home
Books that create and increase awareness and understanding of diversity, inclusion, and American history, including the horrors of racism and atrocities of slavery, are under attack. Some local governments have threatened to close their libraries rather than comply with court orders to keep on their shelves books with which they and the hecklers disagree.
The threat to shutter libraries in lieu of being forced to keep certain books on the shelves brings to mind an apt metaphor for our time: Jackson, Mississippi’s decision to drain segregated swimming pools so city officials wouldn’t be forced to integrate public recreational facilities. In 1962, Jackson operated five racially segregated public parks that included swimming pools — four “whites only” and one “Negroes only.” Plaintiffs sued in federal court claiming state-enforced segregation of the public parks violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court ruled that…