Case Overview

This year Texas passed the Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources Act (READER). READER compels  booksellers that sell books to school libraries to rate every book they sell as “sexually explicit,” “sexually relevant,” or “none.” It further bans all sales of “sexually explicit” materials to public schools.

READER forces those booksellers to choose between compelled speech under vague standards or risk economic harm.  Not only must booksellers read every book they carry, they must apply multifactor balancing tests to determine whether it would offend the community’s standards of decency. But READER offers booksellers nor the public any guidance on what those standards mean. Not only does that leave booksellers and the public guessing, but it gives state officials leeway to impose their own values and purge works they don’t like. 

A collection of bookstores and book-related associations sued to stop READER’s enforcement. The trial court enjoined READER, and Texas officials appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

FIRE, joined by the Cato Institute and the National Coalition Against Censorship, filed an amicus brief urging the Fifth Circuit to affirm the trial court’s decision. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution demands that state laws give Americans fair notice of what is required or prohibited, with clear standards that prevent public officials from twisting the law to their predilections. And under the First Amendment, laws that burden speech must provide that notice and clarity, lest they unconstitutionally chill Americans’ right to speak freely.