Ron DeSantis’ team compares book about gay penguins to Nazi propaganda

Florida’s attorney general, and Ron DeSantis staffer, Ashley Moody has compared a children’s book about gay penguins to Nazi propaganda. 

The Republican, who serves under controversial governor Ron DeSantis, made the comparison in a court filing relating to a legal challenge over LGBTQ+ book bans. 

The Escambia County School Board is currently facing a lawsuit from publishers and authors after it pulled a number of LGBTQ+ titles from public school libraries, including Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s popular And Tango Makes Three about a real-life same-sex penguin couple. 

The lawsuit claims the First Amendment rights of authors and publishers is being violated by the board, echoing a similar legal challenge filed against the Lake County school district in June. 

In the latest filing, Moody rebuffs the notion that freedom of speech is being violated and claims public schools make “value-based judgments” every day about which materials pupils have access to, “based on viewpoint”. 

She went on to say: “They exclude materials such as Nazi propaganda because they disagree that Nazis were wonderful, regardless of any educational value the materials may have. 

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“Viewpoint-based educational choices are constitutionally permissible because public-school systems, including their libraries, convey the government’s message.”

Moody said the plaintiffs in the case are “free to take their concerns to the ballot box” but “have no constitutional right to inculcate Florida’s schoolchildren with their preferred ideas through Florida’s school libraries”. 

The authors and publishers argue that school libraries are public forums and therefore the government cannot restrict access to materials “based on viewpoint”. 

They note that: “[M]any of these books have been targeted simply because they address themes relating to race, sexuality or gender identity” so there is the “intent [to] exclude speech by authors based on their race, sexuality or gender identity”. 

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Peter Bromberg, the associate director of anti-book banning organisation EveryLibrary, said: “[The case could] upend 100 years of established First Amendment precedent. This is such a far departure and would have such a ripple effect.”

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