PHOTO COURTESY OF ARKANSAS ADVOCATE
Stephanie Sweeney, librarian at Craighead Jonesboro Public Library, speaks against Bill 81.
Jack Bond, opinion editor, is a senior English major from Marion
Senate Bill 81 is a recent bill proposed by the senate that would ban library books deemed “obscene.” This applies to both school and public libraries.
The bill defines obscenity as “means that to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole applies to prurient interest.”
Any librarians caught distributing “obscene” materials to a minor would be charged with a criminal offense. The bill would also require libraries to have written policies for selecting and removing materials in their collection.
The bill has already garnered backlash from librarians, with many saying the bill is not necessary and/or blatant LGBTQ+ censorship.
It may not seem like an anti-LGBTQ+ law at first, but when you take into consideration that republican senator Dan Sullivan sponsors the bill, the homophobia becomes more clear.
Let’s not forget 2021’s Jonesboro Public Library pride fiasco, in which the library was forced to move LGBTQ+ books out of the children’s section. Sullivan himself supported this move, stating that the books were not appropriate for children.
In other words, Sullivan’s definition of “obscene” or “sexually explicit” material essentially encompasses anything that isn’t heteronormative. What’s stopping him and the rest of the GOP from using this law to censor books that children might need to better understand themselves?
Even putting the homophobia aside, the definition of “obscene” materials may end up censoring a lot of material whose purpose is much broader than sex ed.
Take classical art for example. Many artists throughout history, namely the ancient Greeks, tended to depict a lot of nudity. What’s stopping the bill from removing books about classical art from libraries?
Though some of the art was not intended to be erotic, they can certainly be argued to be so simply because of the depiction of “obscenity.” Certainly lawmakers won’t want to ban an important part of history, but then the bill becomes inconsistent. Why are some obscene materials banned, but others aren’t?
One could argue that the bill is aimed at pornography and other similar materials, but if that is the case, then the bill is practically useless. Ask any librarian and they will tell you that they don’t allow porn in their collection. If somebody’s worried about their kid accessing such content, they need to be policing the internet instead of baselessly attacking libraries.
But, as previously mentioned, the bill is not really aimed at porn. It pretends to be aimed at it so that it can attack the LGBTQ+ community. Bill 81 is useless at best, homophobic at worst.
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