Some Politicians Attack Libraries Under the Guise of Protecting Children

New censorship policies may help win elections but at what cost to libraries and their young patrons?

Political censorship and book banning agendas threaten libraries that don’t fall in line.

In a disturbing trend, right-wing politicians across the US are accusing librarians of distributing “obscene” content to minors. These accusations are often vague, unsubstantiated, and contrary to regulations already in place to protect children at most school and public libraries. The aim appears to be the unrestricted ability of conservative-led state governments to defund libraries that don’t tow the party line.

Missouri’s Secretary of State Proposes Measure Opening the Door to Defunding

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R), likely to be the next Republican candidate for governor, proposed a broad new administrative rule to block funding to libraries if they distribute materials that might appeal to the “prurient” (sexual) interest of minors.

The rule goes into no detail about what materials he is referring to or what the definition of sexually appealing to minors is. However, it does allow anyone to challenge any book they find offensive.

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The rule requires libraries to adopt policies regarding the age appropriateness of books, which is already in place at school and public libraries in the state. Any library that violates the overly broad and ill-defined rule would risk losing funding.

In a state with a record of frequent book banning efforts targeting Black authors, queer authors, and books about women’s rights and reproductive health, Ashcroft’s rule is seen as an attempt to legitimize these types of attacks.

Ashcroft’s office is still sorting through over sixteen thousand responses received from Missourians and library officials. If implemented, the rule is expected to be challenged.

Louisiana Attorney General Launches Online Reporting Form to Attack Libraries

In a similar move, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) has launched an online form encouraging Louisianians to inform on librarians, teachers, school board members, and district superintendents who they believe to be engaged in the “taxpayer-subsided sexualization of children.”

Landry, who recently launched his own campaign for governor, has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ policy stances. The form, named “Protect Minors,” is Landry’s attempt to follow in the footsteps of other right-wing politicians who’ve equated LGBTQ+ content with pornography and pedophilia and have gone on to successfully win their elections.

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Conservatives Find a New Straw Man

Equating LGBTQ+ content with pedophilia, pornography, and the sexualization of children has become the new right-wing tactic for attacking the LGBTQ+ community and undermining libraries. Under the guise of protecting children, right-wing politicians are mobilizing extremists in an attempt to bolster their own campaigns. Unfortunately, as long as these strategies win elections, we will likely see them implemented even more widely in the future.

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