Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

The book nannies are at it again, trying to censor what people read in South Carolina libraries. 

This time, the excuse for uber-right social conservatives is that they want to keep materials of “prurient interest” away from curious eyes of children. Do they even know what “prurient” means?

We understand they’re scared that children will see a penis or a vagina or have to learn about something not taught at Sunday school. But let’s call it what it is — another attempt by the strong arm of the state to strongarm knowledge via censorship. 

This most recent censorship flare-up comes courtesy of conservative S.C. Sen. Josh Kimbrell, R-Spartanburg, who proposed a budget amendment to cut off funding from public libraries that provided “materials that appeal to the prurient interest” of children under age 13. The pandering amendment passed during an election year and heads to the House, which should strike it. (Unfortunately, House members likely will dodge their responsibility because they’re scared they’d be seen as too permissive if they knocked it out of the budget.)

The state’s libraries could lose millions of dollars if they keep the books on the children’s shelves, even under the guiding eyes of professional librarians. Charleston County libraries could lose up to $920,000, according to library officials, if the county library board has the guts to fight the censorship.

Melanie Huggins, executive director of Richland Library, said there have been increasing attempts in recent months to censor access to library materials, although “they have mostly been targeted at schools and school libraries.” She said her library system would lose about $1 million in state funding a year and that the measure would devastate small and rural county libraries that kept the materials available.

Librarians say they prefer to work with families to find educational materials that are appropriate for each family, not use blanket censorship to deny classics like The Scarlet Letter or Catch-22 or The Color Purple or Sophie’s Choice

Noted state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg: “This amendment is broad enough to ban the Bible.”

Knock it off, legislature. Leave books in libraries to the professionals — librarians. Rather than being Orweillian about what people read, state lawmakers need to stay out of libraries — just like they should stay out of bedrooms and keep their mitts off women’s bodies.

State lawmakers who vote to keep the Senate budget amendment as part of the $12.6 billion budget would be voting against freedom, democracy and the American way. The free flow of ideas — even ideas that are objectionable
— is vital to what defines the American way of life. Nannies like Sen. Kimbrell are throwbacks to the plantation economy that controlled too many people’s lives daily. 

For all of the complaining that conservatives do about “woke” liberals, it’s pretty amazing how their actions are little different in attempting to control conversations and how people interact on an array of issues.

Dump the anti-library language and stop inflaming the culture war. Rather, get to work on what really needs to be done — truly educating our children, creating opportunities for the future, improving access to health care and bolstering quality of life that will allow all Americans to pursue liberty and happiness.

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