Legal Battle Continues Over Law Protecting Children From Harmful Materials in Public Libraries

The federal lawsuit continues over Act 372 of 2023, a good law that generally prohibits giving or sending a child harmful material that contains nudity or sexual activity.

The Arkansas Legislature passed Act 372 last year to protect children from harmful material and to eliminate exemptions for public libraries and schools in the state’s obscenity statute. The law also clarifies how library patrons can work to remove objectionable material from a library’s catalog.

Act 372 was slated to take effect last August, but a coalition of libraries in Arkansas led by the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging portions of Act 372.

Last July U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks blocked two sections of Act 372 — Section 1, which makes it a Class A misdemeanor to give or send a child harmful sexual material that contains nudity or sexual activity, and Section 5, which clarifies how library patrons can work to remove objectionable material from a library’s catalog.

The ruling did not affect Sections 2, 3, 4, and 6 of Act 372, which eliminate exemptions for schools and libraries in the state’s obscenity statute, address inappropriate material in public school libraries, and permit the disclosure of certain library records.

Last week the libraries who filed the lawsuit asked Judge Brooks for a permanent injunction blocking Act 372. Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office is defending Act 372 in court.

Act 372 isn’t just about library books—it’s about protecting our children.

Family Council has heard repeatedly from people who are deeply troubled by obscene and inappropriate children’s books that some librarians have placed on the shelves of their local libraries.

For example, the Jonesboro public library has been at the center of multiple controversies over its decision to place books with sexually-explicit images in its children’s section and for failing to adopt a policy that separates sexual material from children’s content.

The library in Jonesboro even went so far as to post on Facebook that it isn’t the library’s responsibility to protect kids from obscenity. Following the controversy in Jonesboro, voters opted to cut the library’s millage in half.

Other public libraries in Arkansas have included graphic children’s books in their catalogs and failed to separate sexual material from children’s material as well.

Some of the people who testified publicly against Act 372 last spring signaled that they want to be free to share obscene material with children at a library. That simply isn’t right.

Libraries ought to be held to the same standards as everyone else when it comes to giving harmful or obscene material to children.

Public libraries are supposed to be for everyone.

Families should be able to take their children to the library without worrying what their children might see.

And taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize graphic novels that depict explicit images of minors engaged in sexual acts.

Act 372 is a good law that will help protect children in Arkansas. We believe higher courts will recognize that fact and ultimately uphold this law as constitutional.

Gov. Sanders Appoints Former Senator Jason Rapert to State Library Board

In this file photo from 2021, Sen. Rapert (left) speaks with Sen. Alan Clark and Family Council President Jerry Cox (right) at the Arkansas Capitol Building.

On Monday Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders appointed former state senator Jason Rapert to a six-year term on the State Library Board.

According to its website, the State Library administers state and federal funds appropriated for libraries and library development, including State Aid To Public Libraries funds and federal Library Services and Technology Act funds.

During his time in the Arkansas House of Representatives and Arkansas Senate, Jason Rapert sponsored several good pieces of legislation — including Act 1213 of 2015 authorizing a privately funded monument of the Ten Commandments on the Arkansas State Capitol Grounds and Act 180 of 2019 that now prohibits abortion in Arkansas except to save the life of the mother.

Jason Rapert is a staunch conservative and a proponent of the biblical worldview. He will be a much-needed addition to the library board in light of recent concerns some people have voiced about inappropriate material in local libraries.

Targeting Young Adults with Explicit Books

A 2012 headline in U.S. News and World Report asked, “Is It Time to Rate Young Adult Books for Mature Content?” According to the article, there was an increase in profanity in children’s books and sexual content in young adult novels. In fact, a survey that year revealed that 55% of the readers of young adult novels were adults, not teens. 

A decade later, no one seems to be asking questions about graphic content in books for young people anymore. Rather, that content is being defended and promotedEspecially in fiction aimed at young adults, there is explicit content, including aggressive LGBTQ content, and themes of rape, abuse, BDSM, even incest.  

There seems to be a commitment, in both literature and law, to relentlessly sexualize children in aggressive and even predatory ways. In a saner world, we would call this what it really is: abuse. In our world, sane adults must do everything we can to protect children.

Copyright 2023 by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Reprinted from with permission.