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Idaho bill on ‘harmful’ library books moves forward after most public testimony opposed it

Idaho lawmakers sent a bill aimed at restricting library books that are “harmful” to minors to the House floor. The bill would allow Idahoans to request that books be “relocated” from minor sections of the library. The bill would also allow parents to seek damages. | BY HRISANTHI PICKETT
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – Idaho lawmakers sent a bill aimed at restricting library books that are “harmful” to minors to the House floor after nearly two hours of public testimony.
More than 100 people attended a legislative committee’s hearing on House Bill 384, and 18 testified, most of them against it. All 11 Republicans on the legislative committee voted in favor of the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Jaron Crane, R-Nampa. Both Democrats voted against it.
The bill would let parents seek damages from libraries if their children are exposed to “harmful” materials, as defined in Idaho’s 1972 obscenity law. That definition includes “homosexuality,” nudity, masturbation and other sexual conduct.
Library and school staffers testified at Monday’s hearing and said the bill would be unworkable for libraries in the state with tight budgets. One Meridian librarian said the law would prevent teenage library employees from shelving books in adult sections, creating a burden for adult employees. Others said it would expose them to lawsuits and require them to hire attorneys.
“We cannot afford to have a separate area for adults,” said Robert Wright, the director of the Idaho Falls Public Library. He said his library, if the bill becomes law, would close off the entire second floor of the library to people under 18 and may need to hire a staff member to check for IDs.
Shane Reichert, the general counsel for the Idaho Education Association, testified against the bill, noting that “broad and vague language” in the bill could result in frivolous lawsuits.
At the hearing, Crane said the bill would not result in any “banned books” but would rather require for objectionable books to be removed from children’s sections.
Crane told the committee a “national legal counsel group” called his bill “the best library bill in the country.” He did not immediately respond to a question about which organization he had consulted.
A majority of the testimony at Monday’s hearing was opposed to the bill, with members of the public citing homophobia and subjectivity in the state’s obscenity law.
Jacquelyn Davidson, a Republican precinct committeewoman for the Ada County GOP, said she supported the bill and had found books at the Boise Public Library “promoting homosexuality and gender dysphoria.”
“Homosexuality does not equate to obscenity,” said Isabella Burgess, an associate librarian at the Meridian Library District. “It is your choice to sexualize children’s books.”
“Gay people will not go away,” she added. “There will always be families with two moms or two dads seeking out literature that represents them.”
Wright, the Idaho Falls library director, on the brink of tears said that he thought sexual content in books could potentially help children who have been sexually abused or molested to find the language to describe the physical abuse they have suffered.
Efforts to ban books around the country have increased in recent years, along with allegations that librarians are “grooming” children or otherwise sexualizing them. Some of those same claims came up at Monday’s hearing.
One testifier, from Kootenai County, claimed that obscene materials at libraries increases the risk of “rape, murder and child molestation.” Another resident, from Twin Falls, said obscene materials at libraries could increase children’s vulnerability to sexual predators and “condition” them for sexual trafficking.
Zach Borman, president of the West Ada Education Association, a local advocacy group, said he thought lawmakers were trying to “shelter” children and were “legislating a very particular parenting philosophy and pulling the rest of us along with you.”
He said he thinks children should be educated to trust their instincts as they grow and experience greater levels of autonomy.
“Human sexuality is strange at times,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we need to pretend it doesn’t exist until they are an adult.”
Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, who chairs the committee, said policies libraries already have to deal with “harmful” materials have been insufficient.
“These books still are coming up,” he said. “Last year, we had books that were in Meridian libraries that had no business being in the hands of minors.”
Paige Beach, a children’s librarian in Meridian, said she has worked at a library for eight years and said she has “never” encountered a parent who found a book that they thought was “objectionable.”
“I am not seeing that big problem that you’re seeing,” she said.
The post Idaho bill on ‘harmful’ library books moves forward after most public testimony opposed it appeared first on East Idaho News.

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