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Republican lawmakers moving forward on Indiana bill to ban 'harmful' library materials

Five Republican senators joined Democrats in voting against it. The House is now considering the bill.
Credit: AP
House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, speaks during the annual Organization Day at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers pushed forward a Republican-backed bill on Tuesday that aims to restrict students from accessing "harmful materials" at libraries.

The measure cleared the Senate in a 34-15 vote. Five Republican senators joined Democrats in voting against it. The House is now considering the bill.

Republican Sen. Jim Tomes of Wadesville said his legislation would remove educational purposes as a reason that public schools and libraries could claim legal protection for sharing "harmful material" with minors. 

Tomes maintained that the bill does not change current law, which already outlines "strict criteria" that has to be met for a book to be considered illegal.

"These are not classic novels, renaissance pictures, excerpts from he Bible," Tomes said. "This is not about guns. It's not about communism. It's about raw, nasty, filthy pornographic literature. Books."

Senate Democrats pushed back, arguing that the proposal would lead to a ban on books of educational value that are only deemed "harmful" or "offensive" by some.

"Parents have a different perspective about what is harmful to minors, and that is the crux of this bill. The definition of what someone may deem harmful, and someone else may deem harmful ... it creates vagueness," said Democrat Sen. J.D. Ford of Indianapolis. "While some of the content in question may be distasteful, or not what the parent would select for the child, the content is not what a reasonable person would determine harmful to minors."

A House version of a similar bill that prohibits K-12 teachers from including "divisive concepts" in classrooms passed and is being considered by the Senate.

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Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Smith on Twitter.

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