Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina strongly criticized witnesses who claimed that allegedly pornographic books should not be removed from school libraries during a hearing on Tuesday.
Graham, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was participating in a hearing entitled “Book Bans: Examining How Censorship Limits Liberty and Literature” in response to school boards’ attempts to remove pornographic content from school libraries tantamount to “book bans.” When recognized for questioning, Graham claimed that such labeling was tantamount to trying to suppress parents from speaking in the interests of their children.
“A public library is supported by public dollars. Are you telling the taxpayers of this country to just shut up? Are you telling them that you don’t have a voice about how your taxpayer dollars are being spent?” Graham said, rhetorically questioning Democrats. “You’re a parent and you don’t just let your three daughters read something, is it [not] possible that the other things [in] the books in question may hurt the community in the eyes of parents? Can a taxpayer, or a parent, complain under this theory? Or should they just shut up?”
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The leading witness for Senate Democrats, Democratic Secretary of State Alexis Giannoulias of Illinois, attempted to defend his position, saying “I’d make the exact argument that you are. This is about parents making decisions,” before Graham interrupted him to clarify his question.
“No, we’re not making the same argument. You just said: if you’ve got kids, you police your kids, otherwise just shut up and let the community library decide for your community. I completely reject that,” Graham responded. “I don’t have any kids. Should I shut up? I pay taxes. When you have a public library and you have a board, and somebody decides what books go in and don’t go in, lend your voice to the cause.”
“It’s OK to speak out for your community,” Graham emphasized, exhorting parents to participate in local body discussions regarding books they deem objectionable. “You can advocate for your point of view, but somebody has to decide who wins. … [Libraries are] getting money from taxpayers. They should speak up.”
Graham asked another Democratic witness, Emily Knox, an assistant professor of information sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about whether such participation was lawful.
“Almost all libraries have something called a ‘request for reconsideration’ that allows parents or community members to object or say what they would like to have changed in a library collection. What’s important to remember is that this is a collective decision,” Knox answered.
“My point is that there’s no role for [the federal government] up here,” Graham said. “Illinois, you do it the way you want. Each school library, you decide. The day that any parent cannot come forward and say ‘I object’ is a bad day for America.”
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