GOP Legislators Target Librarians for Prosecution, Fines Under new Bill

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The effort to ban books has expanded beyond the classroom now to public libraries, with a new GOP-backed bill adding librarians to their target for prosecution and civil fines of those they believe give access to materials that are “obscene or harmful to minors.”

A collection of 14 Iowa Republican representatives introduced a bill Tuesday that makes it illegal for a person affiliated with a public school or public library to knowingly spread “material the person knows or reasonably should know, is obscene or harmful to minors.” Colleges and universities are exempted.

The penalty would be an aggravated misdemeanor, upgraded to a class D felony if the person was previously guilty of this.

Aggravated misdemeanors can be punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine between $625 and $6,250. Class D felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine between $750 and $7,500.

The goal of this bill and related proposals have come from a far-right effort to remove books written about LGBTQ characters and characters of color, however the language in this bill could greatly expand the list of targeted materials for civil lawsuits.

It also expands the list of who can be charged for obscenity violations to “a person affiliated with an entity that provides products or services to such schools or libraries in this state.” That could theoretically include people involved with setting up Scholastic book fairs.

House File 2176 also would remove the exemption for public libraries and educational institutions, making it legal only for college and university libraries and programs to have “obscene” material.

The legal definition of obscenity is: “any material depicting or describing the genitals, sex acts, masturbation, excretory functions or sadomasochistic abuse which the average person, taking the material as a whole and applying contemporary community standards with respect to what is suitable material for minors, would find appeals to the prurient interest and is patently offensive; and the material, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, scientific, political or artistic value.

So, the same standards taking into account a work’s “serious literary, scientific, political or artistic value” would likely still apply in a legal proceeding because the law doesn’t change the definition of obscenity.

However, the law would also allow a parent or guardian to bring civil action against any public or private school or public library if that parent or guardian’s child receives obscene material. Under this civil section, the material being used in curriculum or for educational purposes would not matter.

“It is not a defense to an action brought under this section that the materials disseminated are labeled as curriculum, approved for an educational use, or otherwise described to be for educational purposes,” the bill reads.

The minimum award would be $10,000 and the winning party will be awarded all court fees.

If this law were to pass, it would take effect immediately.

The representatives, all Republicans, who introduced the law are:

  • Sandy Salmon of Janesville,
  • Jeff Shipley of Fairfield,
  • Anne Osmundson of Volga,
  • Mark Cisneros of Muscatine,
  • Jon Jacobsen of Council Bluffs,
  • Henry Stone of Forest City,
  • Cherielynn Westrich of Ottumwa,
  • Steven Bradley of Cascade,
  • Tom Jeneary of Le Mars,
  • Stan Gustafson or Norwalk,
  • Martin Graber of Fort Madison,
  • Terry Baxter of Garner,
  • Cecil Dolecheck of Mount Ayr,
  • and Dennis Bush of Cherokee.

 

by Nikoel Hytrek
2/04/22

7 Comments on "GOP Legislators Target Librarians for Prosecution, Fines Under new Bill"

  • We’re all waiting with bated breath for the governor to come out and say she doesn’t think this is necessary because she’ll just trust the parents to know what is good for their children to read. You know, kinda like vaccines and masks.

  • Well, this had to happen as the next obvious step. We in Iowa are heading toward our own state version of THE CRUCIBLE.

    What’s needed next is a bounty system that rewards people for turning in librarians and teachers. I saw Goody Jensen with the dirty books! I saw Goody Anderson with the dirty books! I saw Goody Schaller with the dirty books! Read the play again, it’s best to be prepared.

  • Gracious! Well as a middle school librarian I would immediately ban the bible of course. Full of violence, rape, incest, and abuse and that shocking torture/ murder in the New Testament. I’m sure all those politicians would be supportive of the move.

  • What a simplton statement. The Bible is a collection of human events meant to teach that violence, rape, incest, etc is morally wrong and will lead those who practice it to spiritual ruin. Books like Gender Queer, on the other hand, have graphic depictions of sexual acts purely for the sake of instructing children on sexual pleasure. If you cannot understand the difference between teaching morality and sexual grooming, you have no business being around children.

  • Genocide, rape, incest, approval of slavery, violence etc. has no place in the library. They need to ban the bible. Tongue firmly in cheek here.
    The most obscene thing is having politicians that want censorship .

  • The bible should be banned from school. That flogging scene with Jesus is some hot stuff. Very descriptive. It taught me what a scourge whip was when I was ten. The dictionary was my friend. You’re probably gonna ban that too huh?

    Of course the Bible also tells a story about sacrificing a prepubescent girl in a fire to God, committing multiple genocides, oh, and incest, lots of incest, and is definitely not factual or of any scientific value.
    And since it is a religious text it is a violation of the first amendment for it to be in public schools or to be used in public schools outside of in teaching a well balanced world religion class that teaches the good and bad of the religion, including how it is right now using the lever of lawmaking to force heinous censorship laws down our throats and to further marginalize LGBT+ and other minorities because your one religious ideology has a problem playing well with others and seems to have a problem with understanding what the first amendment means when it says you cannot use your religion to make laws to force it upon the rest of it. Now stop it. I swear, I’m gonna start making a list of all your books and start submitting them in. You can have your disgusting medicine back in an enema form because that is where it belongs.

  • Not THAT is a simpleton statement, JT. The bible is not about human events. It’s a rip-off of Aesop’s Fables, at best. It’s a call to arms for others, at worst. Perhaps if you expanded your reading preferences past violence, incest, rape, etc., you’d see that we’re ALL god’s children. Have a blessed day.

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