Alliance Defending Freedom Prevails in Library Censorship Lawsuit

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the Institute for Free Speech have reached a settlement with Yolo County Library officials on behalf of several women's groups after their event discussing fairness in women's sports was shut down last August due to the content of their speech

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the Institute for Free Speech have reached a settlement with Yolo County Library officials on behalf of several women’s groups after their event discussing fairness in women’s sports was shut down last August due to the content of their speech.

The groups, including Moms for Liberty-Yolo County, Independent Council on Women’s Sports, and California Family Council, hosted an event titled “Forum on Fair and Safe Sport for Girls” at the Mary L. Stephens–Davis Branch Library on Aug. 20. 

However, just minutes into a speaker’s remarks about male athletes competing in women’s sports, library staff interrupted and demanded she stop referring to “male athletes as men,” or the event would be shut down.

Despite attempts to continue, the library regional manager ultimately forced everyone to leave and ended the event prematurely, prompting the women’s groups to take legal action with representation from Alliance Defending Freedom and the Institute for Free Speech.

What is Alliance Defending Freedom?

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.

Alliance Defending Freedom has a division called Alliance Defending Church & Ministry Alliance that focuses on providing legal assistance and counsel to churches and faith-based ministries. This arm of Alliance Defending Freedom works to protect the ability of religious organizations to freely practice and express their beliefs without external interference or obstruction.

In the complaint for Moms for Liberty-Yolo County v. Lopez, Alliance Defending Freedom outlined multiple prior instances where the library staff reportedly enabled protesters opposed to their viewpoints to disruptively demonstrate during reserved events with no consequences.

The complaint stated that on Aug. 20, 2023, plaintiffs hosted an event titled “Forum on Fair and Safe Sport for Girls” at the Blanchard Community Room in the Mary L. Stephens-Davis Branch Library. Approximately 25 protesters attended, some holding signs with messages like “Transphobia = hate,” “Trans is Natural,” and “Fact-Free Fear-Mongering Propaganda.”

When speaker Sophia Lorey of the California Family Council mentioned men participating in women’s sports during her remarks, protesters immediately interrupted her by “shouting her down for ‘misgendering.'” 

The library regional manager, defendant D. Scott Love, then warned that if Lorey referred to “transgender females” as “males,” she would be violating the library’s code of conduct by not treating people with “respect” and would be asked “to leave immediately.”

The complaint stated that after Lorey continued her speech about how “biological men” competing against women creates an “unequal playing field,” Love asked her to leave for “misgendering.” When the next speaker, plaintiff Clare Erin Friday, began discussing free speech, she was also heckled by protestors. Rather than addressing the disruption, Love reiterated that Lorey had to leave, saying he would “shut down” the entire program if she didn’t.

After Lorey moved away from the podium, Love declared, “The program is over,” and turned off the projector, forcing the plaintiffs to leave without being able to complete their planned remarks.

The complaint contended this was not an isolated incident, claiming there was a “pattern by the library system of censoring speech that questioned gender identity ideology while enabling protesters” to disrupt events. It cited prior events also marred by protests that library staff allegedly failed to control.

After the August incident, when plaintiffs sought assurances their rights would be protected at future events, the county’s counsel suggested their speech could be considered unprotected “fighting words” and refused to allow private security.

Under the settlement reached in May, Yolo County Library has agreed to change its policies to explicitly prohibit staff from interfering with reserved events based on the content of speech. Library officials must also instruct staff to curtail any disruptive behavior during events going forward.

As part of the settlement, the library allowed the women’s groups to successfully host their event on Apr. 13 without incident. The county also agreed to pay $70,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.

In a statement on Alliance Defending Freedom Media, ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, said, “Women have the right to speak about their concerns regarding men competing in their sports, and public officials have a constitutional duty to uphold that right regardless of whether they agree with the point of view presented.”

“Shutting down discussions about biological differences between men and women is, sadly, a growing trend among activists seeking to erase women and harm children. While they should never have shut down the event, Yolo County library officials are right to change course and enact policies that align with the First Amendment,” Langhofer continued.

“We are hopeful other public officials—whether at libraries, schools, or anywhere else—see this as an opportunity to take a strong stance for the speech and assembly rights of all Americans,” he added.

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