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ALGOP chair: Legislature should strip obscenity law exemption for libraries

Few, if any, of the books challenged in libraries come close to the definition of obscenity — but there are plans to try to change that definition as well. 

ALGOP Chairman John Wahl Facebook/John Wahl

Clean Up Alabama is one step closer to enacting its plans to jail librarians for providing obscene materials to children as ALGOP Chairman John Wahl has publicly stated that the Legislature might consider such a bill.

Of course, few if any of the books challenged in libraries across the state come close to the state’s definition of obscenity—but there are plans to try to change that definition as well. 

“I think we definitely could see the legislature consider a bill that would take that exemption away from libraries,” Wahl said on the Jeff Poor Show Tuesday. “They’re abusing their status here in putting explicit sexual material in front of children in children’s sections. That’s a problem, and I think the legislature is well within its bounds to say, ‘Look, if you’re going to do obscene material, you might not should have that exemption in the law for the obscenity provisions where the law does protect children in other areas of media.'”

In the minutes of an August meeting, Clean Up Alabama laid out removing an exemption for libraries and librarians as its first state legislative goal. Those goals also included reviving HB401, which sought to add drag shows to the definition of sexual conduct and therefore obscenity, and ensure the language could be applied to the content of library books.

However, HB401 would still require that “the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,” which would likely rule out any books that have been challenged in Alabama libraries. Out if the books challenged in the state, only Genderqueer has faced an obscenity challenge in court, and that case failed to proceed to a trial. 

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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