Some people have become so annoyed with what children might read at school or in libraries that they want books they don’t like removed – immediately. Targeted books include scenes of sexual awakening, gender identity, racial identity, or violence.
But why not focus these troubadours on a book full of incest, rape and gore? I’m talking, of course, about the Bible.
In Genesis 19:30-36, Lot’s daughters get him drunk in a cave and his eldest daughter has sex with him. Judges 19 tells how an angry mob surrounded the Levite and his concubine, and he appeased them by handing over his companion. What happens next to the sacrificed woman is too bloody for me to describe.
However, the Bible has not been the target of biblical banners. Moreover, some fanatics attack books they have not read before. They just have a list.
People in the war over “dangerous” books have begun urging libraries and schools to ban books they deemed objectionable in 2021. That discontent surfaced during the coronavirus school closures, and has now erupted into a culture war.
In Idaho, where I live, bookmarks targeted the three largest cities in the state of Boise, Meridian, and Nampa, all located in Treasure Valley in southwestern Idaho.
So far, only Nampa has succumbed to the pressure. Curiously, the book throwing was initiated by only one woman, Tosha Sweeney, who sent an email to the Nampa School Board to demand the removal of 24 “pornographic” books that sex offenders might use to “plot their attacks.”
To bolster her request, she cited Section 18-1515 of Idaho state law, which states that a person is guilty of “dissemination of material harmful to minors” when he knowingly lends material containing detailed sexual descriptions to underage children. The twenty-four books she cited were all “young adult” books, and parental consent was already required before they could be pulled.
In a city as large as Namba, with a population of over 100,000, you would think that one person’s demands would require at least a hearing before action is taken, yet the school board has removed all twenty-four books “for good.” As it turned out, only 23 of the books were taken off the shelves because not one of the adults on the list was purchased.
There was no formal review, which infuriated some parents who advocated for free speech and freedom of choice. A month later, they joined students and teachers outside the Nampa School District offices to protest the ban.
Laura Delaney, who owns Rediscovered Books in nearby Boise, fought off censorship by giving away 1,500 banned books—donated by concerned citizens—to Nampa students and teachers.
“These books were written because the authors are trying to discover the world, and having them share their wisdom with people of all generations and backgrounds makes a difference,” Delaney told reporters.
Then the Idaho legislature jumped into the controversy. Last year, House Republicans passed HB 666 to hold librarians “criminally liable” for distributing materials deemed “harmful to minors.”
“I’d rather my 6-year-old grandson start smoking cigarettes tomorrow than watch this stuff at the public library or anywhere,” said Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa.
A misdemeanor conviction for publishing harmful material includes up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Many librarians found the law terrifying; Some quit their jobs or changed jobs.
“The Idaho library community has lost some good people to conflicts that have mostly centered around book challenges,” State Librarian Stephanie Bailey White told me.
Fortunately, the Idaho Senate refused to hear the anti-librarian bill. But lawmakers found another way to punish libraries: They cut $3.8 million from the original budget for the fiscal year’s $11.5 million for the Library Commission.
Idaho library budget cuts have now made it more difficult for libraries to stock new books and expand telehealth services for seniors and rural residents. Lawmakers have also defunded a statewide e-book program run by the Idaho Libraries Commission.
Book banning campaigns are nothing new in America, but last year the American Library Association said library staff faced an “unprecedented number of attempts to ban books.”
The organization said the books most targeted were those about black people or the LGBT community. The Bible was not on anyone’s list.
Crista V. Worthy is a contributor to Writersontherange.org, Writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to stimulating lively conversations about the West.