Tennessee bill would prohibit 'obscene' books from school libraries

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Posted at 7:59 PM, Mar 02, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A bill to prohibit books deemed "obscene" from Tennessee school libraries advanced Wednesday through the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

The hours-long discussion over the idea brought out celebrities, parents and education professionals alike.

Republican Rep. Scott Cepicky is the sponsor and said the idea is to allow school boards the ability to make decisions about what books are allowed in schools.

"There should be recourse with the parents of this state to ask those for those books to be re-evaluated by their duly elected representatives, not a librarian. That's what we're asking to do," said Rep. Cepicky.

The committee room was packed with both opposition and support.

The bill comes after "Maus," a book about the Holocaust, which was banned from one Tennessee school district and made national headlines.

"The is the issue that hurts me," said Victoria Jackson, former SNL cast member. "People are stealing the innocence of children. My innocence was never stolen."

Each speaker had four minutes to talk about House Bill 1944.

Many speakers took issue with the bill, including members of the Tennessee Library Association.

"These books are freely available at Walmart and Amazon and any other bookstore and if they were defined as obscene, this would not be the case," said Sharon Edwards, president of TLA. "So, when these books are removed from schools it opens our schools up to First Amendment lawsuits, and they cannot afford it."

Supporters of the bill said some books have descriptions of excessive violence or even pornography.

However, opponents said this is a way to criminalize librarians or teachers.

"I think that everyone goes to school to learn how to critically think," said Nashville Democratic Rep. Vincent Dixie. "I think that what they're doing, they're trying to basically indoctrinate our children. They want to ban books like they do in communist countries."

The bill passed with a vote of 7-3. The next stop is the full Criminal Justice Committee.