Another problematic bill has reared its ugly head in the state of Idaho this winter. First introduced in February, Idaho House Bill 666, a bill that criminalizes librarians (among others), passed the House on Monday. It is now moving on to the Senate, where it could pass into law with their approval and the signature of Idaho governor Brad Little.
The bill amends section 18-1517, Idaho Code which protects schools, colleges, museums, public libraries, and the retail outlets serving them from prosecution for “disseminating material harmful to minors.” Removing the protection allows librarians and the other parties to be fined $1,000 and penalized with up to a year in jail for recommending books to patrons.
Why is this bill so problematic? There are several reasons. The first is how vague the language is. There are no clear guidelines on what materials would be considered harmful to minors. According to the Idaho Capital Sun, two books used as examples of “harmful to minors” were the award-winning graphic novels Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe.
Vagueness also arises when it comes to who precisely would be targeted by the bill. It may remove the protections, but the bill does not answer who would be responsible for the books in a library or museum. House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel remarked,
Criminal laws have to be crystal clear. You need to send a bright, bright red line to the public on when they are violating the law and when they are not. And you really can’t be mushy on that without running afoul of due process guarantees and (the) Constitution.IDEDNews.org 3/7/22
The second fundamental issue with the bill is that it is not removing or censoring the books in question, one librarian who spoke out against the bill highlighted this issue.
Everything that we have been hearing on this bill, I would just like to point out that this bill is not to get the books out of the library, this bill is to criminalize library workers. We are not talking censorship and removing these books; we are talking about criminalizing library workers if minors get these books.IDEDNews.org 3/7/22
What is troubling about this bill is its potential to intimidate and “punish” librarians who do not fall in line with the attempted removal of books happening at the board level. There is no doubt graphic novels are among the books targeted. Graphic novels excluded from the “harmful to minors” category because of their artistic and informational value.
As recently reported by Idaho EdNews, it appears the bill may be dead on arrival in the Senate. Senate, President Pro Tem Chuck Winder said,
I do not see the chamber picking this one up. . . . I think it’s very appropriately numbered 666 — if you understand the symbolism of the number. . . . I think it’s mischief and something that doesn’t need to happen.”IDEDNews.org 3/9/22
The final say on whether the bill receives a hearing will fall to Senator Pattie Anne Lodge, chair of the Senate State Affairs committee. CBLDF will be keeping its eye on the legislation to see if it raises its demonic head in the future or spawns something even worse.
CBLDF and its partners have been battling ongoing and organized attempts to censor comics and other books in schools and libraries. You can join the struggle by making a donation or reporting censorship today!