Policy allowing hate groups to meet at libraries comes under fire

Hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, shown at their July 8, 2017, rally in Charlottesville, Va., will be able to meet in public libraries.
(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP/Getty Images)

The American Library Assn. is under fire for a new policy that will allow hate groups to meet in their facilities.

Technically, the library group adopted an interpretation revision to its Library Bill of Rights that states that libraries should allow hate groups to use their facilities for meetings.

In a news release posted on its website last week, the ALA specifically cites hate groups as organizations that should be allowed access to public libraries.


“If a library allows charities, non-profits, and sports organizations to discuss their activities in library meeting rooms,” the organization wrote, “then the library cannot exclude religious, social, civic, partisan political or hate groups from discussing their activities in the same facilities.”

The ALA has consistently stated that hate speech is protected by the 1st Amendment. In a section on its website that addresses hate speech and hate crime, the organization notes, “Libraries should comply with the ideals and legal requirements of the First Amendment. We make room for offensive, bigoted, and biased speech in the libraries if that speech is simply that: just speech.”

The group, does, however, draw a distinction between hate speech and “hateful conduct.”

“Hateful conduct is not tolerated in the library and must be addressed as a behavioral issue or a violation of a library’s Code of Conduct,” the ALA writes. “We cannot limit speech on the basis of its content alone, but we can address inappropriate or illegal behavior.”

The ALA’s interpretation revision drew fire from Twitter users who were disappointed by the group’s decision.


James LaRue, the director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, defended the organization’s decision in a series of replies to Twitter users.