Another viewpoint: Let’s hope Statehouse book-banning measure is dead

The Anderson Herald Bulletin

Language that would make it easier to remove materials from schools and public libraries hit a roadblock last week in the Indiana General Assembly, but it’s too soon to celebrate.

The House Education Committee had considered adding the proposed language to a bill dealing with graduation rates, but it instead voted 12-0 to advance the measure without the amendment.

Still, committee Chairman Rep. Bob Behning, a Republican from Indianapolis, told the Indiana Capital Chronicle the topic would likely resurface on the House floor.

“The issue is not done yet,” he said.

The language of the amendment was similar to provisions of controversial Senate Bill 12, but rather than advancing that measure, the committee was looking at adding similar language to Senate Bill 380.

Proponents point to Hoosier parents who say local school boards have rejected their challenges, leaving books they deem to be “obscene” and “objectionable” readily accessible.

Republicans say the book removal process isn’t working at the local level and now warrants statewide legislation to require “transparency between schools, libraries and communities.”

They couldn’t be more wrong.

The language authored by Zionsville Republican Becky Cash would eliminate “educational purposes” as a reason public schools and libraries could claim legal protection for sharing so-called “harmful material” with students.

In testimony before the committee last week, school officials and librarians argued that such a law would open them up to criminal charges and create a “chilling effect” on the selection of books they could offer.

The American Civil Liberties Union points out that the measure fails to clearly define “material harmful to minors,” raising concerns that the law might be used to silence protected speech on a multitude of issues. It notes such language has historically been used to ban materials on sex education and on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

The fact is that parents should have the right to decide what their own children should be reading. If they find a book objectionable, they have every right to prevent their children from reading it.

What they should never be able to do, however, is to dictate what everyone else’s children can read.

Making it easier to remove books from classrooms and libraries is never a good idea. Such efforts are almost certain to leave all students with fewer choices.

One parent’s trashy novel might very well be another parent’s literary classic.

Members of the House Education Committee were right to advance a bill without these troubling provisions.

Our hope is that opponents will continue to prevail when this issue reaches the House floor.