AG Jeff Landry Creates Pro-Censorship Tipline

AG Jeff Landry announces his run for governor. | Credit: Landry Campaign

On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Landry launched a tipline for citizens to report librarians, teachers, and other school and library personnel. According to critics, this is just another government censorship tactic aimed at silencing LGBTQ authors.

“We believe libraries should be safe places for kids to develop a lifelong love of reading, discover intellectual passions, and pursue dreams for a fulfilling career – not where they are exposed (or worse) to books that contain extremely graphic sexual content that is far from age appropriate for young audiences,” Landry wrote in a Facebook post, repeating an often-used dog-whistle that accuse members of the LGBTQ of being over-sexualized or sexualizing children. “Rest assured that we are committed to working with our communities to protect minors from early sexualization, as well as grooming, sex trafficking, and abuse.”

Amanda Jones, president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, it’s a nonexistent issue, and the tip line amounts to a silencing of free speech for librarians.

“Not only is he going to be flooded with extremist groups, you’re just filling out these reports on teachers and librarians. It is going to become like this weird witch hunt that’s very reminiscent of the Salem witch trials or the McCarthy era,” Jones said. “You have the attorney general, stating these things, he’s running for governor. Well, nobody wants to speak out against that power.”

“What these people are saying is pornography is books by the LGBTQ community,” Jones continued.

A report from the nonprofit group PEN America found that 41% of books banned in schools across the US were targeted due to LGBT+ content. According to PEN America director of free expression and education Jonathan Friedman, conservative groups search books with this content and then seek to add them to various lists of books with inappropriate content.

“They complain about the books online, the books go on a list, the list takes on a sense of legitimacy, and then it being on the list leads a school district to react to that list and take it seriously,” Friedman said. He noted that in nearly ever case, this cycle happens without anyone at the school or library going through proper channels to question books.

“There are laws in the state of Louisiana about material harmful to juveniles,” said Michael Lunsford, executive director of one such conservative advocacy group Citizens for a New Louisiana. The group has been at the center of library censorship battles in Lafayette and Livingston parishes. “So the attorney general in his capacity as the chief law enforcement officer in the state, it only makes natural sense that he would be curious and want to look into these things.”

It’s worth noting that Landry refused to set up a similar tip line for clergy sexual abuse in 2018. At the time, Landry claimed that he did not have jurisdiction to investigate those crimes. A spokesperson for Landry said that the library tipline differs because it is related to the AG’s Cyber Crime Unit.

“Like AG Landry, I am committed to protecting minors, so I can support his call for feedback from the people of Louisiana,” said Peyton Rose Michelle, executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates. “However, the incredibly inflammatory rhetoric that has fueled these conversations leading up to this action from the AG has not been based on evidence-supported claims.”

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