Although Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders' (I) Freedom to Read Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State (CJS) Appropriations Bill was recently voted down, support for the Freedom to Read Protection Act (H.R. 1157) continues to grow, with six new sponsors signing on in the wake of the amendment's defeat. Democrats Robert Brady (PA), Chaka Fattah (PA), Gene Green (TX), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ), Robert C. Scott (VA), and Gene Taylor (MS) are the newest sponsors of H.R. 1157, which now has a total of 151 co-sponsors, including 15 Republicans. (For the complete list of sponsors, click here.)
Sanders introduced H.R. 1157 in March 2003 to limit the broad power given the FBI under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. Under Sanders' proposed legislation, the government would have to seek an order through regular court channels, giving a bookseller or librarian the opportunity to object on First Amendment grounds.
The Freedom to Read Amendment was introduced by Sanders because House leaders refused to hold a hearing on H.R. 1157. The CJS amendment would have barred the Justice Department from using any of the money appropriated under the CJS bill to search bookstore and library records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.
The tie vote on the Freedom to Read Amendment foreshadows a major battle in Congress in 2005 over reauthorizing the provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of the year, and Sanders has vowed to continue the fight to amend Section 215. At a recent press conference, he thanked booksellers and librarians for their efforts on the Campaign for Reader Privacy (www.readerprivacy.org), which to date has gathered almost 150,000 signatures, and encouraged them to continue their grassroots efforts.
ABA is encouraging booksellers to contact Sanders [http://www.bernie.house.gov/contact.htm; fax (202) 225-6790] to thank him for his exemplary leadership in focusing national attention on this issue. In addition, the association has created template letters that booksellers can adapt to thank or to express disappointment in their representative's vote on the Freedom to Read Amendment. (For more about the letters, click here.)
For additional petition pads, or to join the campaign, booksellers should contact ABA's Information Department at (800) 637-0037, ext. 1292 or 1293, or for a downloadable PDF of the petition, click here.