Texas Values: 5th Circuit ruling let booksellers off the hook

Texas Values: 5th Circuit ruling let booksellers off the hook

Texas Values: 5th Circuit ruling let booksellers off the hook

After a federal court blocked part of a Texas law that keeps sexually explicit books out of public school libraries, a conservative activist says the court ruling unfairly let booksellers avoid accountability.

In an effort to crack down on sexually graphic books, House Bill 900 required booksellers to rate how sexually explicit books are when they sell materials to public school districts.

The policy was enforced by the Texas Education Agency, which was sued by a coalition of booksellers that argued the 2023 law is vague and violates their First Amendment rights.

In a Jan. 17 ruling, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the Texas Education Agency from enforcing the law. The court agreed the ratings system for "sexually explicit" versus "sexually relevant" books was too broad and open to interpretation.

Jonathan Covey, policy director with Texas Values, tells AFN the court ruling stripped “accountability” from book vendors to monitor their materials.

“Book vendors have an obligation,” he argues, “to know what types of material they're producing and distributing."

That is especially the case, he adds, if they are knowingly placing sexually explicit materials meant for children in the school library.

Covey, Jonathan (Texas Values) Covey

The court disagreed with that argument and said the ratings required by the law "are neither factual nor uncontroversial." 

Even though the rating system itself was blocked, the 5th Circuit ruling did not block the law itself.

“The other part of that [law] is the standards that are supposed to be passed by the state board of education and by the Texas State Library and Archives,” Covey explains. “So these standards still have to be developed and passed, and they will create guardrails to make sure that school districts are transparent, and make sure that kids are protected."