The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund — which protects comics and manga from censorship — was one of the groups that filed a lawsuit to block Texas’ House Bill 900, (referred to as READER) from going into effect. The vaguely worded act would force book vendors to rate how “sexually explicit” books are before being allowed to sell them to schools. The federal judge providing over the case, Alan D. Albright, sided with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the other retailers and organizations over the state of Texas, saying READER violated the First Amendment.
And the judge’s opinion was scathing. “The Court does not dispute that the state has a strong interest in what children are able to learn and access in schools,” he wrote. “And the Court surely agrees that children should be protected from obscene content in the school setting. That said, [the law] misses the mark on obscenity with a web of unconstitutionally vague requirements. And the state, in abdicating its responsibility to protect children, forces private individuals and corporations into compliance with an unconstitutional law that violates the First Amendment.”
He noted that there were “approximately 40 instances during the August 18th hearing (‘Hearing 1’) where the government either did not know how the law would function or did not have an answer as to what the effects of certain provisions were.” He also said that “the rating scheme itself has a complicated web of requirements” and furthermore that ‘the government was confused and unaware of how the law would actually function in practice, even though the hearing was mere days before it would go into effect.”
If the Texas law had gone into effect, it might also make vendors spend more money rating books than they would make in a whole year, which would lead to bookstores and vendors shutting down.
The legislature of Texas had passed HB900 in June. This is part of a nationwide growth of book bans and censorship, which sometimes affects manga titles.
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.