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Legal & Financial Assistance

Through the provision of financial and legal assistance to libraries and librarians, the Foundation attempts to eliminate the difficult choice between practical expediency and principle in the selection and distribution of library materials. Persons committed to defending the freedom to read should be given an assurance that their commitment will not result in legal convictions, financial loss or personal damage.

Through fighting repressive legislation, the Foundation benefits all members of the library profession. Laws such as obscenity statutes can be significantly dangerous to individuals and institutions, for they may permit, and even encourage, prosecution of non-commercial interests which have neither the incentive nor the resources to defend the propriety of individual works.

Librarians should not be vulnerable to prosecution for disseminating works which the First Amendment entitles their patrons to receive. The denial of the basic rights of library patrons through censorship is not consistent with the philosophical basis of the library profession. The choice between censorship and criminal punishment is inimical to the concept of intellectual freedom, and a derogation of the responsibilities of librarians. The Foundation will challenge the constitutionality of those laws which can inhibit librarians from including in their collections and disseminating to the public any work which has not previously been declared illegal.

Also see: LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund

FTRF has provided financial assistance to dozens of grant recipients over the years.  

Some of those we have helped:

Joan Bodger (1970): The first major action by the FTRF was a grant to assist librarian Joan Bodger, fired from the Missouri State Library. Bodger lost her job for writing a letter to a local newspaper protesting the suppression of an underground newspaper. An ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom fact-finding report, approved by the Executive Board, vindicated Bodger and deplored the library’s actions. 

"Pentagon Papers" Fund (1973): A grant was awarded for legal defense costs in the federal prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony J. Russo, Jr., for their role in the publication of the "Pentagon Papers,” which disclosed the official secret history of American involvement in Vietnam. The charges against Ellsberg and Russo were eventually dismissed.

Jeanne Layton (1980-1982: Several grants were awarded to Jeanne Layton, director of the Davis County (UT) Public Library, to help defray legal expenses in a lawsuit resulting from her dismissal for refusing to remove Don DeLillo’s Americana from the shelves of the library. Her dismissal was the result of a county commissioner’s complaint. 

Alaska Civil Liberties Union (1998): The public school districts in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, removed the book American Indian Myths and Legends from school libraries. In Anchorage, the administration and board went through their adopted procedures and kept the book in libraries, but on a restricted status. In Fairbanks, a new superintendent reinstated the book in 2004 after receiving a final demand letter informing the district of impending litigation. 

Tattered Cover Book Store (2000): The Foundation also made a grant to the Tattered Cover to aid its litigation efforts to stop enforcement of a search warrant for customer records in an illegal drug making case.  In addition, Executive Director Judith Krug testified in the case, and FTRF joined an amicus brief arguing in favor of the Tattered Cover.  A lower court held that Tattered Cover was required to produce information related to the specific invoice in question in the case. On appeal, however, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Tattered Cover, quashing the search warrant. 

Rachel Ehrenfeld (2008): A grant was given to Rachel Ehrenfeld to assist with costs associated with her "libel tourism” litigation.  Ehrenfeld had been sued for libel by a Saudi businessman in a British court for material she published in the United States.  She in turn filed suit in the U.S. to block enforcement of that judgment here.  As a result in part of her campaign against this type of activity, President Obama in 2010 signed the SPEECH Act, which makes foreign libel judgments unenforceable in the U.S. if they are not complaint with the First Amendment.

West Bend citizens (2009): FTRF made a grant in support of a citizens group in West Bend, Wisc., working to support the local public library against challenges to dozens of young adult books.

Other grantees include the National Coalition Against Censorship, for it's "Kids Right to Read" project; the National Youth Rights Association; the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and many others.