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Idaho Senate to consider 'library porn' bill

A photo inside the Idaho capitol building looking up at the dome with the Idaho state flag hanging in the foreground.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio

The latest bill aimed at ousting quote “obscene” material from Idaho libraries is heading to the state Senate.

“It would protect our children from pornography in libraries, to the extent it exists, by determining whether or not it exists and then protecting them from frivolous or unfounded suits,” said sponsoring Sen. Geoff Schroeder (R-Mountain Home).

All libraries would be forced to establish review committees that patrons could file written complaints with under the bill.

Books containing descriptions, images or illustrations of sexual acts or nude bodies would be deemed obscene only if they didn’t hold significant artistic, political or scientific value.

A patron could file a lawsuit against a library only if the system refused to move an obscene book to an adults section.

Many examples of so-called "pornography" found in libraries presented to lawmakers over the last several years have included LGBTQ characters or themes. Some cited a sex education reference book.

Robert Wright, the director of the Idaho Falls Library, said Monday his system received 23 challenges from a local group last August. All but two were already in the adult collection, Wright said.

The remaining two challenged childrens' books were "Abuela," the story of a young girl visiting her grandmother in New York City, and "Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story."

"They felt like that was unAmerican because it said that sometimes native people weren't treated with the utmost respect," Wright said.

He opposed the bill, as did everyone else who publicly testified Monday morning over the course of nearly two hours.

Wright said it was the "best bill" he's seen over the past three years of legislative attempts to address the issue. But he wanted to remove the section allowing patrons to sue libraries.

Meridian Library District director Nick Grove joined the opposition. His district recently survived a campaign to dissolve its libraries and beat back attempts to oust its board of trustees.

Grove said this narrative of “obscene” books is being pushed by a small, but vocal, group of people.

“This might be what people show up in your office and shove in your face with one page of a book, but this is not what your community is asking for,” he said.

Others opposing the legislation said it’ll cost too much to advertise review committee meetings in local newspapers, as the bill would require.

That argument didn’t land with Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon (R-Burley).

“It’s going to cost too much to keep this away from our children? I’ll pay a little extra,” Anthon said.

The bill cleared the Senate State Affairs Committee on a 6-3 vote and could be taken up by the full senate later this week.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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