US: Kutztown Teen Banned Book Club founder presented First Amendment Award

A court just upheld Texas’ censorious social media law. It’s now headed for the Supreme Court.

  A court just upheld Texas’ censorious social media law. It’s now headed for the Supreme Court. A federal appeals court upheld Texas’ social media law (pdf), setting the stage for an eventual Supreme Court ruling on the matter. In September 2021, Texas passed a law that prohibits the largest social media companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, from removing users or their posts based on political “viewpoints” (pdf) while also allowing Texans to sue the companies for perceived violations.Read more'Let’s Just Call It What It Is:' Chrissy Teigen Says She Had an Abortion, Not a MiscarriageU.S. Safety Agency Warns People to Stop Buying Male-to-Male Extension Cords on AmazonChina Sends a Warning to the U.S.

Sep. 23—A Kutztown High School freshman who founded a Teen Banned Book Club recently received recognition for standing up for freedom of speech.

Joslyn Diffenbaugh, 14, was one of five to receive a 2022 Hugh M. Hefner Foundation First Amendment Award during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 15.

"A year ago I never would have pictured myself on this stage," Joslyn said during her award acceptance speech. "It brings up the question of how did an introverted 14 year old end up on the news, worldwide publications, and even standing on a stage to receive an award, fighting for the right to read?"

She credits reading the book "I Am Malala" in second grade.

Preserving the freedom to read: After 40 years of Banned Book Week, librarians craft new plan to fight back

  Preserving the freedom to read: After 40 years of Banned Book Week, librarians craft new plan to fight back The American Library Association launched Banned Book Week 40 years ago but as more books and authors have come under attack, the ALA has a new plan.The campaign, Unite Against Book Bans, is a collaborative effort launched by the ALA and a wide range of individuals and groups to provide local residents tools for outreach and organizing to combat the growing effort of book banning and censorship, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

"As a young reader it was inspiring to see a strong female activist stand up for not only her rights but all rights as women," she said. "It was amazing to see how only one person can make a big difference."

When Joslyn was an eighth grader at Kutztown Middle School, she put that lesson into practice.

After reading about an outcry to ban books in schools nationwide and locally based on topics of race, gender identity and sexuality, Joslyn created a Teen Banned Book Club in January. Youth meet biweekly at Kutztown's Firefly Bookstore to discuss and celebrate challenged stories, exploring classic novels and current hot topics.

"Starting in kindergarten we were encouraged to read as much as possible in school and outside of school," said Joslyn.

Girls Who Code founder speaks out after Pennsylvania school district bans her books: 'This is about controlling women and it starts with controlling our girls'

  Girls Who Code founder speaks out after Pennsylvania school district bans her books: 'This is about controlling women and it starts with controlling our girls' "This is an opportunity to realize how big this movement is against our kids and how much we need to fight," Reshma Saujani told Insider.This summer, President Joe Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the most significant piece of gun legislation to pass in decades. Part of the bill includes $750 million in federal funding for states to implement intervention programs such as gun restraining orders, more colloquially known as "red flag laws.

She was shocked to learn that 850 books labeled dangerous and inappropriate — many of which she has read — were being banned in Texas.

"Despite what book banners are saying, books don't turn students into racists, criminals and a life of promiscuity," Joslyn said at the awards ceremony. "It was even more shocking to see how this trend of book banning trickled into our own small community, portraying kids who read books as a danger."

The narrative on reading has flipped, she said.

"It is mind blowing how the kids labeled nerds are now the kids labeled as dangerous," she said. "I myself have been called a hypersexualized political pawn because I read books.

"We have a First Amendment right to read and listen to the ideas of others. This book banning movement is a direct attack on our First Amendment rights."

Joslyn asserts that book banning is the most widespread form of censorship in the United States.

Supreme Court's gun ruling opens door to next fight: Where can they be carried?

  Supreme Court's gun ruling opens door to next fight: Where can they be carried? "That's going to be an important and interesting battlefield going forward for Second Amendment cases," said Joseph Blocher, an expert on the Second Amendment and professor at Duke Law School.Already, challenges to so-called sensitive place restrictions in New York and the District of Columbia have been filed, and more are expected to follow from gun rights supporters, who argue the measures keeping them from bringing guns into places like houses of worship, on college campuses and in public parks infringe on their right to keep and bear arms.

"Parents and political groups that are working to ban books fear that the children will think critically and raise questions about topics that they think are inappropriate or are not able to handle," she said. "Every parent has the right to have a say in what their child reads, but no parent or political group has the right to dictate what others can and cannot read. That is our First Amendment right."

Joslyn said she is helping change the future.

"As Malala has inspired me, I hope that I can inspire others," she said. "I hope that when other teens encounter their rights being taken away they feel empowered to stand up and do something about it. If a teen from a small town in Pennsylvania can make a difference, then they can, too."

The award

The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation, established by Hugh M. Hefner in 1964 to support and fund today's pioneers defending civil rights and liberties with a special emphasis on First Amendment rights, presented Joslyn with a First Amendment Award.

A panel of judges voted to honor Joslyn in the education category for her efforts to combat book banning and for inspiring young readers across the country to start their own banned book clubs and write to their local school boards demanding action, and in some cases, action against censorship.

The Worst Teen Mom Scandals Of All Time Ranked

  The Worst Teen Mom Scandals Of All Time Ranked Some notorious Teen Mom franchise cast members have been involved in major scandals over the years, from being arrested to getting axed by MTV.Although the original purpose of 16 And Pregnant and Teen Mom was to highlight safe-sex education, while showing the struggles of young motherhood, the franchise is now known for its high drama level. Due to fighting with their families, friends, significant others, and even one another, Teen Mom's cast members are the opposite of non-confrontational.

"Joslyn, along with the other four honorees we will celebrate this year, both inspire and remind us that we all have a role to play in respecting diverse opinions and protecting our First Amendment rights," HMH First Amendment Awards Chair Christie Hefner said in a statement.

The annual awards were founded in 1979 to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to defending freedom of speech.

"We are proud to present Joslyn with the HMH First Amendment Award for the education category for her courageous efforts in defending the cornerstones of democracy for all Americans," said Hefner.

"I was very honored when I found out about receiving this award," Joslyn said. "This past year has been so crazy, and it still hasn't fully hit me. The award really shows me how important it is to stand up for what you believe in. It helped me to realize the impact of what I have been advocating for."

A panel of independent judges — professor and author Allison Stanger; Will Creeley, legal director for FIRE; and Julia B. Chan, editor in chief of the 19th, an independent, nonprofit newsroom — selected the recipients.

"It feels like I am in a special club now and plan to have ongoing relationships with all these amazing people," said Joslyn. "This award and experience really showed me how important the work I am doing is and motivated me to keep going."

States appeal dismissal of suit against U.S. archivist for refusing to certify ERA ratification

  States appeal dismissal of suit against U.S. archivist for refusing to certify ERA ratification The states are seeking to have the Equal Rights Amendment published as part of the Constitution.The states are seeking to have the ERA published as part of the Constitution, but their call comes decades past Congress’ 1979 deadline for ratification of the amendment — which was passed in 1972 and is intended to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. The attorneys general for the states contend that the amendment has been fully ratified, as three-quarters of U.S. states have now voted to make it the 28th Amendment. But the U.S. archivist has declined to certify the amendment after finding the congressional deadline to be valid.

Joslyn feels inspired from hearing their stories of taking a stand for what is right no matter the cost and dedicating their lives to fighting for the right to free speech.

Other winners

In the journalism category, journalist Manuel Duran, arrested while reporting on a protest against immigration policies in Memphis, Tenn., in 2018, was detained by ICE, initiating a legal battle to reopen his immigration case. Four years after his arrest while doing his job for the Spanish-language news outlet he founded, Duran was granted asylum.

Amy Sohn, a New York Times best-selling author, received the Book Publishing First Amendment Award for her book "The Man Who Hated Women" in which Sohn writes about eight women who risked imprisonment and death to redefine contraceptive access as a human civil liberty during America's Gilded Age.

In the government category, Dawn Wooten, a nurse, filed a whistleblower complaint against an ICE detention center in Georgia for abuses at the facility. After a year of multiple federal investigations and lawsuits, the secretary of Homeland Security directed ICE to sever its contract with La Salle Corrections and all immigrant detainees were removed from the facility.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Michael Bamberger, who has argued more than 100 First Amendment cases before trial and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joslyn is the youngest person to be honored with the First Amendment Award, said her mother, Lisa.

"I couldn't be more proud of Joslyn," Lisa said. "It was easy to see how the work she is doing tied into the mission of the HMH Foundation and the work of recipients past and present. Everyone showed her so much respect and adulation and honored her speech with a standing ovation. Words can't even describe the amazing experience this was for Joslyn and our family."

The Oath Keepers' Capitol riot trial, explained

  The Oath Keepers' Capitol riot trial, explained WASHINGTON (AP) — A trial starting this week in Washington, D.C., is the biggest test yet in the Justice Department’s efforts to hold accountable those responsible for the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a violent assault that challenged the foundations of American democracy. On trial is extremist leader Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers extremist group, and four associates. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will make their opening statements on Monday and the trial will last several weeks.

She hopes that this inspires her daughter to continue to be a strong advocate for herself and others.

Teen Banned Book Club

The club meets biweekly on Wednesdays at Firefly Bookstore. The next meeting is Oct. 5. Jordan Busits, a Firefly Bookstore associate, co-runs the club with Joslyn.

"The club has given the members a safe space to express themselves without fear of censorship or retaliation," Joslyn said. "It allows them to think for themselves and apply critical thinking skills about books."

About 12 members, ages 13 to 17 in grades eight to 11 mostly from the Kutztown School District, participate in the club. Members have read several books so far and have a list of to-be read books.

"The club has allowed us to dive deep into books that are deemed controversial," she said. "We discuss why an adult may want the book banned, but then form our own opinions and decide if the reason for banning is a valid reason. So far we have not agreed with any of the reasons someone may have wanted any of the books banned. Most of the banning reasons we have deemed as lies or exaggerations."

While some have expressed negativity toward Joslyn, she receives support from her community as well as from across the country and around the world.

"The power of social media is incredible," she said. "The story of our Book Club has reached around the world and it's been an incredible experience interacting with others around the globe. I hope to be an inspiration to other teenagers and young adults to stand up and do something when they see their rights being taken away."

Proud to support Joslyn in building this club, Matthew Williams, co-owner of Firefly Bookstore, said the staff is pleased the group has been given so much recognition.

"From the community, the response has been wonderful with many people contributing money or a portion of their accumulated store credit toward the club book purchases," Williams said. "At this point, none of the club members will need to pay for a book for a long time. Being able to give them free books is just a great way to encourage reading."

Will Smith's new film Emancipation SPLITS the Academy as some refuse to nominate the actor

  Will Smith's new film Emancipation SPLITS the Academy as some refuse to nominate the actor Sasha Farber on Why Derek Hough Is the Most ‘Intimidating’ Judge on ‘DWTS’

Every year, Firefly Bookstore puts together a display of banned and challenged books for Banned Books Week.

"We consider the impact of the decisions made for our children and community as part of the ongoing conversation about reading and its importance in a democratic pluralist society," said Williams. "The largest source of concern for us is not what people read, but what happens when someone wants to withdraw a book from a library or school because of content issues.

"Is that being done away from public scrutiny? What kind of oversight exists over what is deemed appropriate? Is one political power using book banning as a campaign platform? What effect does that have on a community? There are many questions that deserve answers, but that will not happen unless we talk about it."

The store has gathered a lot of attention in the press and the community as a by-product of the club meeting there and for its ongoing support and assistance.

"But the club has also done something very important in that it has added to a larger conversation about banned and challenged books, and balancing the right to read and having access with putting appropriate material in our students' hands," Williams said. "We have had many conversations with other customers who may not know as much if anything about the ongoing controversies and debate.

"The young students in our club remind us that there is no way to kill an idea or quell an interest once it's truly taken hold. We need to learn to understand and remain curious rather than just react judgmentally."

"I really hope that adults who are trying to ban books and push censorship on youth can look at our club and see what amazing people we are and that their perception of youth reading books that they deem inappropriate are not having the impact on us that they are claiming," Joslyn said. "My wish is that this current trend will come to an end and see us as example of why book banning is unnecessary."

(c)2022 Berksmont News, Pottstown, Pa. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Will Smith's new film Emancipation SPLITS the Academy as some refuse to nominate the actor .
Sasha Farber on Why Derek Hough Is the Most ‘Intimidating’ Judge on ‘DWTS’

See also