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ALGOP pushing for bill to allow jailing of librarians

Alabama's anti-obscenity enforcement law has long provided exemptions for libraries and their agents pursuing “legitimate educational purposes.”

The Alabama Republican Party voted Saturday to encourage the Legislature to repeal a provision in its code that allows librarians to face criminal charges for alleged code violations.

APR contacted ALGOP Chairman John Wall for comment, but did not receive a response. Although APR has not been able to consider the resolution, an ALGOP news release confirmed that voters passed the resolution.

Criminal penalties apply to multiple provisions of the law, including the distribution of “obscene materials” as well as “materials harmful to minors.”

On the Jeff Poor Show in October, Wall argued that librarians “are going to handle obscene material” and pushed for the repeal of the exemption.

“I definitely think Congress will consider a bill to remove the exemption from libraries,” Wall said on The Jeff Poor Show on Tuesday. “They're abusing their position here to put sexually explicit material in front of children in the children's section. That's a problem, and the legislature says, 'If you're going to do obscene content, you have to do it by law. I think it's well within the range to say that the law may not include an exemption from the obscenity clause if children are being protected. Also in other areas of media. ”

Although Wahl depicts “placing sexually explicit material in the presence of a child” as an obscene act, the term actually has a clear definition under the statute.

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In the Code, obscene means:

a. The average person, applying modern community standards, would find the material as a whole to be sexually appealing.and

b. This material depicts or describes actual or simulated, normal or perverted sexual acts in a manner that is patently offensive.and

c. A reasonable person would find that this material, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

The definition of material harmful to minors varies slightly, but still requires the material to be at least pornographic in nature.

At least for now.

In September 2023, APR reported on Clean Up Alabama's legislative plan to eliminate exemptions for librarians, but this is just one part of their three-pronged plan.

It would also tweak last year's “anti-drug” bill (HB401) to include LGBTQ content under “sexual acts.”

In the group's August meeting minutes obtained by APR, the group lists one of its legislative goals: This includes public libraries. ”

Clean Up Alabama continues to conflate sexual orientation and gender identity with sexual content, and just last week was involved in rewriting the Platteville Library's policy to prohibit the purchase of children's and young adult books containing LGBTQ content. did.

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As written, APR is not aware of any instances in which libraries in this state violate Alabama's anti-obscenity law enforcement law. But if the definition of “harmful to minors” is successfully changed, librarians who shelve children's and youth books could soon face fines of up to $10,000 and a year in county jail. may be punished.

The ALGOP resolution is consistent with Wall's previous comments, but contradicts recent comments in which he suggested that the Alabama Public Library Service, of which he is a director, could solve the problem and that legislation was not needed. .

“The best-case scenario is that we would actually like the APLS board to handle this,” Wahl said on the Yafee radio show earlier this month. “We feel like that's the right authority and the right route. And if we do our job right and set the right protocols, there won't be a need for the Legislature to be involved.” .”

Reed Freeley Alabama said the exemption was needed to protect libraries from being forced to remove books under threat of criminal prosecution.

“These protections are essential to ensuring the freedom of access to information for all Alabamians, and removing these protections would prevent dedicated library staff from accessing sex education purposes or LGBTQ-affirming content.” By providing legitimate sources of information, you risk criminal prosecution, including prison time, “For Alabama Families,'' Reed Freeley said in a statement Monday.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks blocked a provision in Arkansas with identical language, saying it would “allow, if not encourage, library boards and local governments to make censorship decisions based on content or viewpoint.” “This would violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

“Read Freely fails to understand how repeating Arkansas' unconstitutional mistakes at the expense of Alabama taxpayers will help protect Alabama's children,” the group said. Ta. “This trend toward authoritarian government overreach when it comes to citizens’ right to choose appropriate reading material for their families should be a wake-up call to all Alabamians. The intent behind this resolution is clear. , should not be tolerated. Read Free The State of Alabama calls on the ALGOP to rescind this un-American resolution and instead uphold its stated values ​​of individual liberty and small government. ”

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