Iowa argues law banning sexually explicit books in schools should be reinstated

The court also blocked a provision that prohibits the discussion of gender or sexuality in Iowa's classrooms.

Published: June 12, 2024 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

(The Center Square) - An injunction halting the implementation of Iowa's ban on sexually explicit books in school libraries should be lifted, Iowa's Solicitor General Eric Wessan argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit on Tuesday.

A federal judge issued the injunction on the book ban in December. It's part of Senate File 496, passed by the Iowa Legislature in 2023, which has separate challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union and publisher Penguin Random House. The court also blocked a provision that prohibits the discussion of gender or sexuality in Iowa's classrooms.

The three-judge panel, which did not identify themselves in the court recording, questioned why the law was challenged facially. A facial challenge questions the unconstitutionality of a law.

One judge said facial challenges should only be used as a last resort.

"There's no last resort here," the judge said. "That's not an interpretation. That's a quote."

Fred Sperling, an attorney for Penguin Random House, said the problem is that an enormous number of books have been removed from the shelves.

"The question before this court is not whether some of the books the state defendants can point to can be constitutionally removed from school libraries," Sperling said. "They can and they have been under existing law before the adoption of 496. The question that is before this court is whether this overbroad and vague statute is constitutional and it is not."

The panel continued questioning Sperling and ACLU attorney Thomas Story about the need for a constitutional challenge.

"I think what's going on here is you got the school districts in a dead panic," one judge said. "They're applying it more broadly than the language of the statute itself and we're sitting in a world where we're talking about 3,400 books and what's the bad. Some say the "Portrait of Dorian Gray" had got to go and you know, those are all specific ideas that could have been litigated, right?"

Wessan said the state does not believe the facial challenge was needed.

"The state believes that if this injunction is vacated, the school districts, the schools and the students will understand what the law means and as time moves forward, this would become an integral part of Iowa's educational landscape," Wessan said.

The judges did not indicate when they would make their decision.

Unlock unlimited access

  • No Ads Within Stories
  • No Autoplay Videos
  • VIP access to exclusive Just the News newsmaker events hosted by John Solomon and his team.
  • Support the investigative reporting and honest news presentation you've come to enjoy from Just the News.
  • Just the News Spotlight

    Support Just the News