One of the symptoms of the anti-critical race theory movement, which is running through many Republican states, is book banning. Currently, there are nine “book ban” bills proposed in seven state legislators in places like Oklahoma and Georgia. Most of the literature targeted in this bill impacts marginalized communities the most, such as LGBTQ people and people of color.
House Bill 666, legislation passed through the Idaho House of Representatives on Monday, would take criminality a step further. According to Salon, it would pave the way to fine and jail staff of school libraries, universities, and museums if they provide “harmful” material to children. The bill moved through the chamber with a 51-14 vote, and it would carry penalties of a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail.
State Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, the bill’s sponsor, said the measure is necessary “to protect children from what she described as pornography and obscene material making its way into libraries.”
“For many years, I as a parent have been concerned about the obscene and pornographic materials that find their way into our schools and public libraries,” state Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, the bill’s sponsor, said in an hour-long debate. “We are simply asking that those that are responsible for the materials in our libraries or in museums or the other places that are listed in this code, are handled sensitively and responsibly.”
Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel pushed back on this notion–arguing that librarians “may not be able to discern what material qualifies as objectionable.”
“How in the world is any librarian facing potential criminal sanctions going to know,” Rubel asked her colleagues. “It is very unfair to our librarians and educators to ask them to operate in a world where they have no idea what is legal and what is not and what will send them to jail and what will not.”
Rep. Bruce Skaug stated, “I would rather my 6-year-old grandson start smoking cigarettes tomorrow than get a view of this stuff one time at the public library or anywhere else,” noted by Idaho Capital Sun.
Democratic Rep. James Ruchti feels books that would help children and communities would be swept up in the board definition of what harmful can be:
“I’m afraid what they’re just going to do is just default on uber uber safe,” he said. “I’ve known a few librarians in my life; they are not risk-takers. Do you think any of them want to be subject to a misdemeanor, possible jail time, a fine?”
The bill would delete a section of the Idaho code that protects schools, colleges, universities, museums, and more and allow those institutions and employees to be prosecuted for giving harmful materials to minors.
Specifically, the part of the law that states this:
The Idaho law also states the law doesn’t apply to “any matter which, when considered as a whole, and in context in which it is used, possesses serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors, according to prevailing standards in the adult community, with respect to what is suitable for minors.”