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A new Missouri bill proposes jailing librarians who provide children “age-inappropriate” books.

Corinne Segal

January 16, 2020, 11:35am

A proposed law in Missouri would fine, and possibly jail, librarians who provide books to children that a parental board deemed inappropriate, a policy so extreme that it has attracted national attention.

House Bill 2044, or “the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act,” introduced by Republican state Rep. Ben Baker on January 8th, would require libraries receiving state funding to create “parental library review boards” that would be elected by the public to review books for explicit content and “age-inappropriate sexual material.” It defines this material, in part, as “any description or representation, in any form, of nudity, sexuality, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse” that “lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.” Librarians who violate the policy could be fined up to $500 or jailed for up to a year.

James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America, said in a statement that the bill amounts to “a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri.” Tager also pointed out that it could have a particularly negative effect on books and authors that address sexual assault and LGBTQ identity.

“Every reader and writer in the country should be horrified, absolutely horrified, at this bill,” Tager said. “The fact that a librarian could actually be imprisoned under this act for following his or her conscience and refusing to block minors from access to a book, that tells you all you need to know about the suitability of this act within a democratic society.”

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