March 8, 2022

House lawmakers in Idaho are considering whether or not prosecutors should be able to criminally charge librarians for allowing minors to check out “sexually explicit materials.” And to be clear, this is not another episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. 

Handing out porn to minors is obviously a crime, and has been on the books in Idaho since 1972, but public libraries, including those at colleges and universities, have up until now been exempt from that law. HB 666 (yes, that’s the name of it) now heads to the full House. It would include librarians who lend books with explicit content to people under 18 years old.

The librarians could face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. The bill passed the House State Affairs Committee along party lines. 

“The increasingly frequent exposure of our children to obscene and pornographic materials in places that I as a parent assume are safe and free from these kinds of harmful materials is downright alarming,” Republican Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt told Boise State Public Radio. 

The proposed statute outlaws anyone from making available “any other material harmful to minors,” including pornography, nude art, or books that include descriptions of sexual excitement.

Kara Claridge, a mother from Coeur d’Alene, said she’s extremely concerned about her daughter, who found a library book last summer about a same-sex relationship between a prince and a knight. 

“It escalates quickly to Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero, to middle-grade queer [books] and Lawn Boy,” she said during a House committee hearing Thursday.

Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison has been at the center of a public debate in the Fairfax district in Virginia since last year, alleging it contained sexual content and depictions of pedophilia.

The scene at issue involves an adult man recounting a sexual encounter with a classmate while he was in fourth grade.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Evison said his novel challenges issues such as capitalism, wealth disparities, and racial assumptions, adding that “pornography was nowhere among them,” he said.

“I’m glad that the book has been reinstated, where I hope it will continue to inspire and comfort young adult readers who have been marginalized economically, racially, or by virtue of their sexual identification, so that these young people might find their rightful place within the large culture,” he said.

The book was pulled from library shelves and then subsequently returned. 

“My daughter’s innocence was violated, but what happens when kids start acting on these graphic behaviors put forth in these books,” Claridge asked.

Another parent told the committee that she had filed a formal complaint against her local district over the book Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe. 

“The school does not need to teach our children how to do oral sex,” she said. “That’s my job.”

Kobabe responded to the banning of her book in Fairfax with an op-ed in the Post.

“Removing or restricting queer books in libraries and schools is like cutting a lifeline for queer youth, who might not yet even know what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identities, bodies, and health.”

Director of the Ada Community Library Mary DeWalt tells KTVB-7 in Boise that the books on the library’s shelves go through a detailed selection process from start to finish.

“It’s actually an elected board," DeWalt said. "It’s members of the public who file just like a senator would file for office. Our library board is made up of community members and there's five of them. Part of the library board policy, the array of policies in our case, is called the 'Policy for Selecting and Discarding Materials.' It’s a policy that is set by the library board and is designed to guide pretty much the entire process.”

Boise librarian Erin Kennedy added: "We walk down the slippery slope of censorship of constitutionally protected speech when we have a bill like this.” 
“Orwellian” was one of the choice words author and artist Art Spiegelman used to describe a Tennessee school board’s unanimous decision to ban his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus. “I’m kind of baffled by this,” Spiegelman told CNBC. “It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’”
Parents in the Salina school district in Kansas have recently gone on the attack to get manifesto-memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson pulled from high school libraries, as reported by local outlet KMUW.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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