a fast growing network of conservative groups is fueling a surge in book bans

A Fast-Growing Network of Conservative Groups Is Fueling a Surge in Book Bans

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In its 2021 “Porn in Schools Report,” Florida Citizens Alliance lists books that they say contain “indecent and offensive material” — including “And Tango Makes Three,” about two male penguins who adopt a baby penguin.

The alliance has a network of more than 250,000 people it can mobilize to flood politicians with letters. Referred to by Mr. Flaugh as “the back office,” this network sprang into action this year to support a bill that requires Florida districts to report all book objections to the state. The state will then create a list of challenged titles and distribute it to districts “for consideration in their selection procedures.”

The Florida Board of Education said it was up to districts to develop “a process for removing or limiting access to specific books,” but did not answer questions about how districts should interpret the list. Some librarians and parents are concerned it will have a chilling effect.

“This list could be seen as a warning, like ‘Don’t even bother with these books,’” said Michelle Jarrett, the library media supervisor for the School District of Osceola County. “Librarians across the state are already self-censoring for fear of retribution, and asking themselves, ‘Am I ready to defend this book, is this worth the fight?’”

Some of the new groups have become effective political power brokers. Moms for Liberty was founded in Florida in January 2021; it now has 250 chapters in 42 states, and ties to the state Republican Party and to legacy conservative organizations like the Leadership Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

This summer, Governor DeSantis appeared at Moms for Liberty’s national summit in Tampa, where he denounced “woke gender ideology” in schools and argued that parents have the right to object to “explicit” books in school libraries. The summit also drew other prominent political figures from the right, including Senator Rick Scott of Florida and the Trump administration cabinet members Ben Carson and Betsy DeVos. In her remarks, Ms. DeVos called for dismantling the Department of Education, which she used to run.

Moms for Liberty has created a political action committee in Florida, and won over influential conservative donors such as Julie Fancelli, heir to the Publix supermarket fortune. This summer, she gave the committee $50,000.