Book ban bills pass ND House and Senate

Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 6:08 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Lawmakers in the North Dakota House and Senate advanced bills that would bar select books from certain areas of some libraries around the state.

Some lawmakers are looking to send a message.

“Some will say it’s censorship, some will say it’s book banning. I would say this is an honest effort to protect our children,” said Representative Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson.

If signed into law, HB 1205 would ban public libraries from maintaining books that contain sexually explicit material.

“What possible value does this kind of information provide for our children and our society?” said Representative Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown.

A number of librarians testified against the bill in committee, citing censorship and unenforceability. And those opposed to it on the House floor say it’s not the state’s job to decide what kids can and can’t read.

“If you are still concerned about kids accessing certain material, we already have a process in place to address that too. It’s called parenting,” said Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, D-Fargo.

A similar bill – SB 2360 – would make it a class B misdemeanor for institutions like libraries to display content which “contains sexually explicit material that is harmful to minors.” But lawmakers in favor of SB 2360 say it’s not a book banning bill.

“This is not burning the book bill, nor is it censorship. Why? Because we’re dealing with minors. The Supreme Court, U.S. v. Reidel in 1971 upheld that obscenity laws were constitutional,” said Senator Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg.

But those opposed say this bill is too broad and will apply to scientific texts.

“It’s any written pictorial, 3-dimensional or visual depiction showing or describing… and when I look at sub-6, 7, and 9, that’s my anatomy book,” said Senator Kristen Roers, R-Fargo.

Both HB 1205 and SB 2360 passed. The House and Senate now exchange the bills.

HB 1205 passed the House 65-28 and SB 2360 passed the Senate 38-9. Both are veto-proof majorities.