by Randy Hudgins
Three bills that would impose censorship on Indiana’s libraries have been proposed in the state legislature’s current new session:
- Senate Bill 12 (Author: Jim Tomes, R-Evansville)
- House Bill 1130 (Author: Becky Cash, R-Zionsville)
- House Bill 1522 (Author: Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville)
Each bill is titled Material Harmful to Minors. These three bills are nearly identical in how they are written. They represent the ongoing culture war issue aiming to empower individuals and the social conservative groups they receive support from to question, remove, and censor books and materials they object to from libraries and other publicly supported cultural institutions.
The Indiana ACLU reports that the bills have several problems, notably that they do not clearly define “material harmful to minors.” They also would remove protections for public libraries, school libraries, and any library not on a college or university campus from prosecution under laws for providing “harmful material” to minors. At least one bill suggests that being found guilty should result in a Level 6 felony, which in Indiana is the same classification as Criminal Stalking, Strangulation, and Vehicle Theft.
This issue is very real to residents in Hamilton County because the Hamilton East Public Library Board (serving Fishers and Noblesville) has hosted several contentious meetings over changes in their policy for the acquisition, review, and shelving of materials spurred by an organized campaign to challenge books. Many books challenged in our communities and across the nation involve LGBTQIA+ and sexuality topics.
A similar bill was proposed in the Indiana House last session and failed to get a committee hearing. Similar language was in the initial 2021 Divisive Concepts Bill (HB 1134) that also attempted to address the fallacy that Critical Race Theory is taught in our schools. That language was cut out of the bill quickly in the process.
None of these bills had received a committee hearing as of today (Thursday). Deadlines for Senate bills to go through committee are February 27 and 28. The deadlines begin the previous week in the House. Next week is the last week of scheduled committee hearings in the House. There are two more weeks for scheduled committee hearings in the Senate.
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