Judge dismisses librarian’s defamation lawsuit following conservative attacks over LGBTQ books

A Louisiana judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit that a librarian filed against two men and a conservative organization last month over statements they made criticizing her for supporting the inclusion in a library of books involving the LGBTQ community.

Amanda Jones, who is a middle school librarian and the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, filed the lawsuit after she said she was publicly attacked for opposing censorship and “book policing.” The conservative advocacy group Citizens for a New Louisiana, led by Michael Lunsford, and Ryan Thames made a series of posts online criticizing Jones, but the judge ruled that their statements were ones of opinion and not fact.

Jones spoke at a meeting of the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control on July 19 after a member of the board requested the board review the content of books that she believed to be inappropriate. Jones spoke against the restricting of books, saying that the censoring or relocating of books would be harmful to the community.

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

A second post from July 22 accused Jones of “fighting so hard to keep sexually erotic and pornographic materials” in the children’s section. A photo of Jones included in the post is surrounded by a red circle that Jones said appears similar to a target.

The account made additional posts throughout July and August referencing Jones.

The lawsuit alleges that Thames, who operates a Facebook page called “Bayou State of Mind,” posted a meme of Jones showing her smiling behind a desk and accusing her of advocating the teaching of anal sex to 11-year-olds. Thames allegedly continued to publicly mock her afterward, according to the lawsuit.

Joseph Long, who is an attorney for Thames, said in a press release that Jones meant well but could not stand the “heat of criticism” and used the lawsuit to try to win the debate over the books instead of winning with better ideas.

“The First Amendment wins when people of conviction fight for it,” he said. “We hope that this case will stand as a beacon of hope for those who are put in a similar situation by the radical Left.”

Thames said that he does not support banning books, but rather protecting children from “harmful content.”

Judge Erika Sledge said in her ruling that Jones was a limited public figure for identifying herself as the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians at the meeting, but it did not matter because the statements were not defamatory, according to the Louisiana newspaper The Advocate.

The threshold for proving defamation is higher for public figures than for private figures in order to facilitate free discussion. Public figures need to prove that defamatory statements were made with actual malice.

Lunsford told The Hill that the lawsuit was “frivolous” and without merit, and Sledge determined that the organization was within its First Amendment rights of free speech.

He said being unable to articulate a strong argument in the court of public opinion should not be followed by a civil lawsuit. He added that Sledge determined that even if Jones was not a public figure, the statements would not be considered defamatory.

Lunsford said the organization’s responsibility is just to tell the public “what’s going on” and what the truth is.

An attorney for Jones did not immediately return a request from The Hill for comment.

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