Judge Tosses Librarian's Defamation Suit Against Anti-LGBTQ+ Group

·3 min read
Judge Erika Sledge
Judge Erika Sledge

A Louisiana judge dismissed a lawsuit filed last month by a librarian over criticism she received for supporting the inclusion of LGBTQ-related books in a library.

Amanda Jones, a middle school librarian and the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, from Denham Springs, La., filed the lawsuit against two men, Michael Lunsford and Ryan Thames, after she claims they publicly attacked her opposing censorship and “book policing," The Hill reports.

Although conservative group Citizens for a New Louisiana, ran by Lunsford according to the suit, published a series of online criticisms of Jones, the judge ruled that their statements were only opinions. The judge indicated that the level the offending commentary would have to rise was very high because the plaintiff was somewhat of a public figure.

On July 19, Jones spoke at the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control meeting after a board member requested that the board review inappropriate books. According to Jones, censorship or relocation of books would harm the community, so she spoke out against them.

“The citizens of our parish consist of taxpayers who are white, Black, brown, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian — people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and no one portion of the community should dictate what the rest of the citizens have access to,” Jones said during the meeting, according to NBC News. “Just because you don’t want to read it or see it, it doesn’t give you the right to deny others or demand its relocation.”

Citizens for a New Louisiana posted on its Facebook page the following day that “anti-censorship folks” opposed moving “sexually explicit and erotic materials targeting eight to ten-year-olds” to the adult section, according to the lawsuit.

A post also mentions Jones is “fighting so hard to keep sexually erotic and pornographic materials” on shelves for children to read in an edited photo of her surrounded by what she said appears to be a target.

Another group called Bayou State of Mind, ran by Thames according to the suit, wrote that Jones was “advocating teaching anal sex to 11-year-olds.”

NBC News reports that the group posts misinformation about the pandemic, anti-abortion material, and anti-LGBTQ+ memes.

In August, Jones told NBC News that she “I’ve had enough for everybody.”

She added, “Nobody stands up to these people. They just say what they want and there are no repercussions and they ruin people’s reputations and there’s no consequences.”

According to the Louisiana newspaper The Advocate, unrelated to this publication, Judge Erika Sledge ruled that Jones was a limited public figure because she identified herself as the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians at the meeting, adding that it did not matter since the statements were not defamatory.

To enable free discussion, public figures have to prove that somebody made the defamatory statement with actual malice, a higher bar than for private citizens, the Hill notes.

“If this takes four or five years, I’m going to fight these people on this,” Jones told NBC News last month. “Even if I lose, I could say I stood up to them.”

As for the books, the same group that attacked the librarian posted on its Facebook page that the books remain accessible.

"By a vote of 4:2 Livingston Library Board tells their Parish Council to buzz off. Pornographic books will remain in kid's section!" they wrote, seemingly incensed.