Many people have been made uneasy or outright angry at public libraries being used to promote ‘gender’ acceptance using ‘Drag Queen’ story hours and other activities. So, in Tennessee, one lawmaker is introducing a law that could successfully combat this form of indoctrination.
State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) is sponsoring a new bill with State Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) with the intent of providing oversight of what programs are offered in public libraries.
The Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act isn’t aimed at books or other traditional materials offered by libraries.
“I think our libraries have a good handle on that right now,” Holt said. “There’s certain books you know you won’t find in the children and youth reading sections that are available, although I’m not sure if they could actually check them out.
“But that kind of material isn’t targeted to children.”
Holt expressed concern about material through other forms that could be available for – and even targeted to – younger children.
“There’s obviously lots of creative media through computer and also presentations, discussions and speeches taking place in libraries such as drag queen story hours,” Holt said. “There haven’t been many, but there have been a few come to Tennessee.
“This bill is trying to create panels to decide for themselves – at the local level – what is and what is not age appropriate as far as presentations in libraries.”
While Holt says he doesn’t think that specific scenario is appropriate, whether or not the presentations happen in a specific library wouldn’t be up to him.
“The people on these five-person panels would be elected by the people of the geographic area served by the library – the county or city, whichever applies – and they would be the ones to decide what is and what is not appropriate for their libraries,” Holt said.
He also mentioned this doesn’t target material in which sex is simply mentioned.
“Someone said, ‘Well then you’re saying the Bible shouldn’t be in the library,’ and that doesn’t apply at all to this bill,” Holt said. “There are a lot of material, presentations, speeches and other creative media where sex is mentioned, but it’s not the focal point of the material.
“A lot of classic books and other literary works mention it or it’s even part of their story, but that’s not the sole purpose of the book. It’s just a part of it.”
According to the bill itself, age inappropriate sexual content targeted includes “any form, of nudity, sexuality, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse that taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of minors; is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is appropriate material for minors; and taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
The Tennessee Library Association released a statement on Thursday expressing concern over the bill.
“TLA leadership is continuously monitoring the proposal, which in its current state contains language the organization finds equatable to censorship of library collections, which we oppose,” the statement said. “The Tennessee Code Annotated provides public libraries local control over collections, meeting spaces, and other matters of policy through governing boards appointed within each community by local government.”
The TLA said they’re concerned about adding another layer of decision-making in the process of allowing presentations of any type to be made in libraries.
“TLA feels the proposal, if enacted, would mandate un-necessary and duplicated legislation, placing an added burden of government oversight on local library boards,” TLA said. “TLA is proud of our ongoing work with state lawmakers to meet the needs of our public libraries and the communities they serve.
“Should HB 2127/SB 2896 continue to take shape, TLA is committed to continuing our work to protect the freedom to read in Tennessee libraries in partnership with our legislators.”
According to the bill, each library’s panel would be elected by the voters of that library’s municipality, and they would each serve two-year terms.
Their meetings would be public and would allow for parents to bring grievances of material to them for them to discuss and decide on the age appropriateness of their content.
Serving on this panel would not be a paid position.
Holt said there needs to be penalties in place for non-compliance.
“What good is a bill if there’s not teeth to it for not adhering to it?” Holt said. “And the punishment isn’t for offering material, but for not following guidelines set forth by that library’s panel.”
According to the bill, any individual who doesn’t follow standards determined by the panel would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and would be subject to a fine up to $500 or serving time in jail.
A library that goes against its panel’s decisions would potentially disqualify itself from state funding.
“Anyone who knows me or follows me knows I’m against big government and government telling us how to live our lives,” Holt said. “But I’m also for keeping things in public facilities age-appropriate to protect children from being exposed to things they shouldn’t be exposed to at a young age.”