'Obscene' books bill advances in Tennessee legislature

Posted at 8:30 PM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 06:49:59-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A bill to prohibit "obscene" material from school libraries advanced Wednesday through a key committee.

Debate on House Bill 1944 has continued for weeks on the bill, which could prohibit some books. That debate continued in the Criminal Justice Committee.

Supporters of this bill said they found pornographic material in school libraries.

It's a contentious issue up at the Capitol. Through two committees dozens of people testified.

Discussions went for more than an hour and a half, bringing the total debate time to over five and a half hours, according to lawmakers.

The issue here is books that parents find offensive because they believe the content of the books could be harmful to students.

The sponsor of the bill, Republican Rep. Scott Cepicky, said this bill is a way for school boards to vet the books in their libraries.

To save time, just two speakers were brought in to debate the merits of the bill.

Supporters of the bill said kids are being exposed to graphic material in books in school libraries in many Tennessee counties.

They referenced a book called "Me, Earl and the Dying Girl."

Opponents of the bill say this law would just have the state override local districts, which already have avenues to remove books that are obscene.

Over two weeks, the debate brought out celebrities, parents and education professionals alike.

One state representative said this bill would simply not allow content that would be illegal anywhere.

"This is a bill about if something is illegal anywhere else in the world, or in the country, I should say, then it's also illegal in a school library. That's what it does legally," said Republican Rep. William Lamberth.

There's still skepticism about the intent of the bill.

State lawmakers who oppose the bill said they worry this could be used to potentially charge librarians criminally.

The bill passed through the committee 13 to 3.

It's now headed to the education administration committee.