A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a really bad bill in the North Dakoa Legislature, HB 1205, which starts banning books from our libraries. I’ve since learned there’s another one just as bad, SB 2123, which pretty much does the same kind of thing. One’s in the House, the other in the Senate, and both have had hearings and should come up for a committee vote pretty soon.
The state’s librarians have rallied against them, as I urged them to do in my earlier column. My own librarian here in Bismarck sent me a fact sheet and asked me to help spread it around. Here’s what it has to say. Read it carefully and act, as they urge you, if you want to:
Dear North Dakotans,
The North Dakota State Legislature is in session and two censorship bills have been presented that, if passed, would directly impact libraries across the state. Here’s a quick summary of the bills, why they matter, their status, and what you can do to help.
What are the library censorship bills?
House Bill 1205, sponsored by Reps. Mike Lefor and Vicky Steiner of Dickinson, relates to “prohibiting public libraries from maintaining sexually explicit books.” With vague definitions, this could include romance novels, movies with sex scenes and any materials that reference LBGTQ+ identity. As the bill is written, if a public library has in its collection any material that anyone deems explicit, the library must remove it and librarians may be charged with a class B misdemeanor, fines, or both.
Senate Bill 2123, sponsored by Sen. Todd Beard of Williston, prohibits any organization open to minors from displaying “objectionable materials,” whether image or written format, including visuals or descriptions of “partially denuded human figures.” With this bill as written, as just one example, a book or film containing a visual image or written description of Michelangelo’s sculpture of David could be reason for incrimination. Based on someone’s subjective definition of objectionable content, librarians may be charged with a class B misdemeanor, fines, or both.
Why do they matter?
If these bills become law, it will demarcate a new era of censorship for North Dakota’s public libraries, including holding librarians criminally liable for any materials any member of the public deems explicit or objectionable. This government overreach would create a logistical nightmare for libraries to administer, attempting to maintain collections based on vague, subjective definitions with an overall diminishment of intellectual freedom.
What can I do to help?
- Sign the ND First Amendment Defense Group’s petition.
- Write your state senators and representatives with a “do not pass”recommendation. You can email them here.
- As the bills are still in committee, you can also write the committee members directly with a “do not pass” recommendation, their email addresses are listed below.
House Judiciary Committee members:
Senate Judiciary Committee members:
- Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper. Tell your community you don’t agree with government censorship and want to choose for yourselves and your children what information you have access to!
Signed: North Dakota’s Librarians
Well. There’s your assignment. Now would be a good time to contact your own legislators and urge a “No” vote, and to write to the committee members. Maybe you can talk some sense into them.