Idaho Republicans Repeat Claims of 'Pornography' in Libraries

Idaho Republicans Repeat Claims of 'Pornography' in Libraries

BOISE, Idaho — Republican state legislators in Idaho announced over the weekend that they will be forming a “working group” to study allegations that the state’s libraries are making “explicit” or “pornographic” materials available to minors.

The Idaho Senate's President Pro Tem Chuck Winder (Boise-R) told the AP that this “working group” will aim determine the “scope of the problem and what the remedies might be, if need be.”

The move came shortly after the Idaho House of Representatives' failure to agree on a budget for the state’s libraries derailed the end of the legislative session. The House twice defeated the proposed budget for the Idaho Commission for Libraries, due to right-wing Republicans’ claims that the libraries contain “pornographic material,” the Associated Press reported.

The library budget was eventually passed by the legislature, but only after being cut by around $4 million, a third of the original appropriation.

State Democrats allege that the right-wing Republicans were “punishing libraries for speaking up to defend themselves” against House Bill 666, passed by the Idaho House of Representatives on March 7.

Sponsored by Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt (R-Eagle), the bill removes explicit liability protection for libraries, schools, museums, colleges and universities and their employees if anyone decides to accuse them of “disseminating material that is ‘harmful’ to minors.”

DeMordaunt claims her bill is “necessary to protect children” from “pornography and obscene material she said has been making its way into libraries where children can access it,” the Idaho Capital Sun reported.

“There needs to be more vigilance,” DeMordaunt told the paper.

Bill's Vagueness Will Lead to 'Chilling Effect'

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise), however, objected to the bill’s subjectivity and vagueness in defining “harmful” or “pornographic.” She expressed concern that different people would disagree over what is harmful to minors and that librarians would not have clear guidance or protection.

“How in the world is any librarian facing potential criminal sanctions going to know?” Rubel told the Idaho Capital Sun. “It is very unfair to our librarians and educators to ask them to operate in a world where they have no idea what is legal and what is not and what will send them to jail and what will not.”

Rep. Steve Berch (D-Boise) pointed out the “chilling effect” on free speech that would result from the threat of imprisonment, since librarians “will be encouraged to sanitize — to censor — for fear of being prosecuted and persecuted by groups that don’t like certain content.”

With the overwhelming support of all but two Idaho House Republicans, the bill passed on a 51-14 vote. It is currently awaiting its first reading by the Idaho Senate.

Legislative Session Turns Salacious

It was clear throughout the chaotic Friday session, during which lawmakers repeatedly failed to discuss actual budgetary issues, that several Republicans intended to create a full-blown moral panic for this election year.

As the Idaho Press reported Friday, Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) "read at length from state law about sexual acts and specific nude body parts that are considered obscene, prompting Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) to interrupt and ask that the House’s pages, who are high school students, be allowed to leave the chamber."

“They’re not elected officials," Scott's fellow Republican stated. "They don’t have to sit here and listen to this."

The House Speaker then asked the pages to step out of the chamber, and Scott continued, claiming the salacious laundry list of "forbidden" words and acts — which the Idaho Press labeled as "smut" — were crucial for "people to know how serious this is."

Main Image: Idaho State Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt (R-Eagle), who leads the claims about "pornography" in the state's libraries.

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