Bill from Missouri’s Rep Ben Baker threatens librarians with prison sentences for allowing minors to read books banned by town committees

Under Missouri House Bill 2044 — the “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act” — each town will elect a committee of five local people (librarians are not permitted to serve) who will take local submission for books to ban. If they choose to ban a book, any librarian who allows a minor to check out or read that book will face up to a year in prison, and their libraries will be de-funded.

The unconsitutional bill was proposed by Rep Ben Baker [R-160/573-751-9781/Ben.Baker@house.mo.gov/@benbakermo] who holds a BA in Biblical Literature from the Ozark Bible Institute where he is Dean of Students.

Books that Missourians have tried to ban from public libraries in recent years include “Sherman Alexie’s award-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.”

Baker told a local news station that he didn’t want to ban books, but that, “I just think that we need to be careful about funding something with our taxpayer dollars without parental consent.”

The Missouri Library Association said it was opposing the bill, because it “will always stand against censorship and for the freedom to read”.

“Public libraries already have procedures in place to assist patrons in protecting their own children while not infringing on the rights of other patrons or restricting materials,” it added.

Baker told Koam News that he was not trying to ban books. “I just think that there’s a line between what is open and available access for our children. Even the bill specifies it wouldn’t be taken out of the library, it would just be put in a section that’s not for children,” he said. “If the adult wanted to, and said I’m OK with my child reading this or looking at this, then they could check that out and have that available for their child. I just think that we need to be careful about funding something with our taxpayer dollars without parental consent.”

Missouri could jail librarians for lending ‘age-inappropriate’ books [Alison Flood/The Guardian]

(Image: Ben Baker)

(Thanks, John!)