An event featuring Quaker historian Steve Chase organized by the Northern New Jersey chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace will take place Sunday. Montclair Public Library Director Janet Torsney released this statement on open conversation and the decision by the Board of Trustees:

The Montclair Public Library Board of Trustees held a special, emergency meeting on Saturday, November 11, 2023 to review reconsideration forms regarding the Open Conversation scheduled for November 12 at 1:30.

The Board is grateful for everyone who shared their views during and before the meeting. We sincerely hope this important dialogue will continue.

The Board concluded that there was no basis to cancel the event, which is not a library program, so it should be permitted to proceed as scheduled.

The Open Conversation is being held by a group of nonprofit organizations, which followed the proper procedure to request meeting room space.

The Library’s Meeting Room Use Policy states, “Permission to meet at the Library does not in any way constitute the Library’s endorsement of any organization’s viewpoints, beliefs, policies, or affiliations.”

The policy also states that the Board of Trustees endorses the American Library Association “Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” An excerpt from the ALA Interpretation is included below:

“Publicly funded libraries are not obligated to provide meeting room space to the public. If libraries choose to do so, such spaces are considered designated public forums, and legal precedent holds that libraries may not exclude any group based on the subject matter to be discussed or the ideas for which the group advocates. However, if a group’s actions during a meeting disrupt or harass others in the library, library policies regarding acceptable behavior may apply. If libraries adopt policies that are perceived to restrict potentially controversial groups’ access to meeting rooms, they may face legal and financial consequences. Allowing religious groups to use library meeting rooms and spaces does not constitute a breach of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”

The Library looks forward to continue being the location where all ideas can be
exchanged freely in a safe atmosphere.


Liz George is the publisher of Montclair Local.

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  1. No mention in this follow up about who exactly on the Civil Rights Commission agreed with the statement put out to take away people’s First Amendment rights. Was it the entire commission or just the Chair? The public has a right to know.

  2. Not all speech is considered protected. And I say this as someone always pushing to hear the perspectives of those unpopular, or from whom the mainstream really does not want to listen to.

    Here below are examples from the US and other legal sources of what is not protected free speech under the 1st Amendment. Therefore, could have been the basis for why our Library Board should have canceled JVP. Based on that group’s support for violence and terrorism against Jewish Israelis. Reasons Colombia University and other colleges are also kicking them out now. Because Jewish Voices for Peace — regardless of the name masquerading as pro peace, actually supports violence against Jews.

    1. *Incitement to Violence*: Speech that incites or encourages violent actions is usually not protected.

    2. *Hate Speech*: Speech that attacks or discriminates against people based on attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.

    3. *Defamation*: Making false statements that harm the reputation of others can be restricted. This includes libel (written defamation) and slander (spoken defamation).

    4. *Obscenity*: Speech that is obscene and not considered protected under free speech laws. What constitutes obscenity can vary greatly.

    5. *Child Pornography*: All forms of child pornography are illegal and not protected under free speech laws.

    6. *Perjury*: Lying under oath is not protected speech.

    7. *Intellectual Property Violations*: Copying or distributing copyrighted material without permission is not protected.

    8. *National Security*: Speech that threatens national security or is related to terrorism is often restricted.

    9. *False Advertising*: Misleading or false advertising is not protected.

    10. *Direct Threats and Harassment*: Speech that constitutes a direct threat to another individual or constitutes harassment is generally not protected.

    Clearly, there are a number of legal points above where JVP actions to date, would warrant keeping them out.

    Our MPL Board made the wrong call…

  3. @pmf,

    The Chair has great latitude to speak on behalf of the Commission. The by-laws don’t require the full commission to be polled and I doubt all had advance notice.

    However , I will wonder if Councilor Price Abrams, as one of the Council’s liaisons to the CRC, was consulted prior to the Chair’s press release.

  4. Frank, thanks for the schooling. Quite concerning when people in such positions try to silence speech. Montclair isn’t the liberal utopia people like to pretend it is.

  5. Let’s face it. The way things go in this town, the library probably didn’t know a thing about this group. I suggest these institutions know who are they dealing with before making these plans. It’s like Williamsburg having that group that Mike Johnson is involved in where they want to rewrite the constitution using extreme Christian beliefs. Imagine, that at Williamsburg, of all places. We live in a dangerous time. These groups need to be investigated before committed to. It would be interesting to know who made this decision. JVP is a hate group. Well done, library. Bringing a hate group to town.

  6. I think it is better to give hate groups a forum to speak than to let them operate in private. Their ideas and words maybe be unpleasant but it is better that they expose who they are. I am sure there are a lot of left leaning people that are awakening to the fact that many people they supported actually hate them. The crisis in the Middle East has shone a bright light on where people stand and what they believe. Don’t turn the light off because the warts are showing.

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