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Obama Slams LGBTQ+ Book Bans in Open Letter to American Librarians

Obama Slams LGBTQ+ Book Bans in Open Letter to American Librarians

Barack Obama

The former president took aim at the recent push by right-wing extremists to ban books from public and school libraries.

Former President Barack Obama issued on Monday a call to action for Americans to be mindful of efforts to ban books as new studies show that a rise in challenges is sparked primarily by a wave against LGBTQ+ books.

In his remarks, the former president mentioned that many challenges relate to books about the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, and other traditionally underrepresented groups.

“It’s no coincidence that these ‘banned books’ are often written by or feature people of color, indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community – though there have also been unfortunate instances in which books by conservative authors or books containing ‘triggering’ words or scenes have been targets for removal,” Obama wrote in an open letter to America’s librarians Monday morning.

“It’s also important to understand that the world is watching,” he wrote. “If America – a nation built on freedom of expression – allows certain voices and ideas to be silenced, why should other countries go out of their way to protect them?”

Obama did not direct his criticism to a specific state or leader.

“I believe such an approach is profoundly misguided, and contrary to what has made this country great,” he wrote.

He addressed those librarians whose job is to provide an open reading environment for all.

“In a very real sense, you’re on the front lines – fighting every day to make the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas available to everyone,” he wrote. “Your dedication and professional expertise allow us to freely read and consider information and ideas, and decide for ourselves which ones we agree with.”

According to an Ipsos and NPR poll conducted in May, 65 percent of Americans oppose school boards banning certain books and removing them from classrooms. The majority of respondents also opposed lawmakers writing legislation banning certain books.

In states nationwide, Republicans have succumbed to far-right extremist groups like Moms for Liberty, which seek to remove certain books from schools and public libraries.

President Joe Biden, who served as Obama's vice president, recently announced new initiatives to combat these measures, including a Department of Education position for an agency coordinator to monitor and fight book bans.

“Michelle and I want to thank these librarians for their unwavering commitment to the freedom to read,” Obama noted in a tweet along with his letter.

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