The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit over the state’s book ban law filed a motion late yesterday for a preliminary injunction that would stop the law in its tracks while the case plays out in court. 

The plaintiffs, which include the Fayetteville Public Library and the Central Arkansas Library System, argue in the motion that the law violates their constitutional rights to free speech and due process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. 

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The motion takes issue with the availability and challenge provisions of Act 372, which the state legislature passed and Gov. Sarah Sanders signed into law earlier this year. 

The availability provision criminalizes librarians by making them subject to up to a year in prison for making materials available that are deemed to be harmful to minors. The law does not explain what steps are sufficient for libraries to ensure that the items are not available to minors, the motion says. 

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The challenge provision of the law requires libraries to establish a process through which a person can challenge library material like books, magazines or movies. The law does not provide guidance on what is an accessible area for minors or if it requires the removal of works while a challenge is pending, the motion states. The plaintiffs argue that the availability provision is a prior restraint, which occurs when governments limit speech before speech takes place. 

The plaintiffs also argue in the motion that the law allows challengers to appeal decisions to political leaders, such as city councils or county quorum courts, but does not provide supporters of a challenged book the same rights. 

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The motion asks the court to grant a preliminary injunction until the final adjudication of the case or grant a temporary restraining order while the court considers the preliminary injunction motion. 

Last month, a collection of Arkansas public libraries and supporters filed the lawsuit in federal court in Fayetteville. In addition to the Fayetteville library and CALS, the 18 plaintiffs include the Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library, CALS Executive Director Nate Coulter, Garland County Public Library Executive Director Adam Webb, Wordsworth Community Bookstore of Little Rock, Pearl’s Books of Fayetteville and other associations and individuals. 

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The state’s prosecuting attorneys, including Pulaski County prosecutor Will Jones, are the defendants named in the case along with Crawford County and Crawford County Judge Chris Keith. Coulter said previously that the prosecutors were named as the defendants to prevent them from enforcing the law. State Attorney General Tim Griffin will represent the defendants, Coulter said.

Even before Act 372 goes into effect, conservative hysteria over libraries has risen in recent months. A battle in Crawford County led to the relocation of LGBT children’s books to the adult sections and the library’s attorney refused to return the books citing the children’s “innocence,” according to the lawsuit.  

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In Saline County, a group opposed to the library put up a billboard saying “Stop X-rated library books” and creating a website with reviews of the saucy books it finds inappropriate. A group of library supporters called the Saline County Library Alliance responded with some supportive billboards of their own. Earlier this week, a crowd of supporters and aginners showed up to a Saline County library meeting – some with creative signs about banned books, fascism and the Christian Taliban – shared their thoughts on what is appropriate material for children. 

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