Congressional Hearing Debates Pornographic Books in School Libraries

A fiery debate over the presence of certain books in school libraries was at the forefront of Thursday’s House Education subcommittee hearing, led by Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.), who opened with a warning about the sensitive nature of the discussion.

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“Before getting started, I would like to make a disclaimer that we are going to be handling some very sensitive, mature issues today. We will be discussing wildly inappropriate books that are accessible in school libraries,” he said.

The session mirrored nationwide debates in school board meetings, focusing primarily on book content that some deem inappropriate for school-aged readers.

Virtually all of the witnesses favored restrictions on specific books.

However, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) said, “This is the U.S. Congress and not a school board meeting.” She accused extreme politicians of pushing censorship laws under the guise of parental rights.

Representing Moms for Liberty, Lindsey Smith defended her organization’s stance, claiming they weren’t advocating for “book banning.” She highlighted explicit scenes from books like “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and questioned the suitability of such content for students.

She told committee members to imagine students reading an illustrated scene where “a strapped-on penis is visible on the partner with oral sex being performed graphically.”

Echoing Smith’s concerns, Max Eden from the American Enterprise Institute questioned why anyone would oppose evaluating content in school libraries.

“Why do certain left-leaning organizations, the media, and the Biden administration appear so determined to include explicit material in school libraries?” he inquired.

He highlighted some of the most frequently removed books and their explicit material, arguing that parents naturally wish to shield their children from inappropriate content.

However, these sentiments didn’t resonate with all. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) warned of the dangers of eroding public institutions by controlling reading materials, viewing it as a significant threat to public education.

In opposition to the majority, Jonathan Friedman of PEN America emphasized the importance of discerning between individual parental concerns and larger organized campaigns that could harm public education. PEN America’s research indicates an increasing trend in book bans, even though many parents disagree with such measures.

Megan Degenfelder of Wyoming’s Department of Education advocated for local decision-making rather than federal intervention regarding school content appropriateness.

Moms for Liberty, Lindsey Smith countered: “I would like to address the lie that parental groups and Moms for Liberty are ‘book banning,’” Smith said. “If removing a sexually explicit book from school libraries is what you see as book banning, then you need to reevaluate your language.”

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