Senator reads explicit passage from book during judiciary hearing to make point on book bans

by KAYLA GASKINS | The National Desk Wed, September 13th 2023

WASHINGTON (TND) — More than a few faces on Capitol Hill turned red as Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., read explicit passages from two controversial books at the center of the book ban debate. The shocking moment took place during a Senate Judiciary hearing on book banning.

In an effort to hammer home his point about the appropriateness of the books in question, Kennedy read excerpts from "All Boys Aren't Blue" and "Gender Queer."

Efforts to remove books like those from schools and the children's section of public libraries have ramped up in the past few years. The fight has turned deeply political.

In Illinois, a new law discourages so-called book bans and its secretary of state, Alexi Giannoulias, accuses Republicans of cherry-picking passages to push a narrative.

“Our libraries have become targets of a movement that disingenuously claims to pursue freedom but is instead promoting authoritarianism," said Giannoulias during Tuesday's hearing.

Those on the other side of the debate say they aren’t advocating for “bans” at all, pointing out these books are still available for purchase on websites like Amazon. This camp believes sexually explicit books have no place in elementary schools.

"As a society we don’t put Playboy in kindergarten. This isn’t considered a book ban but common sense," said Nicole Neily, president and founder of Parents Defending Education.

"No one is advocating for sexually explicit content to be available in an elementary school library or a children’s section of a library," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

But some argue these books do benefit kids; for example, "All Boys Aren’t Blue" covers sexual abuse.

"Students who don’t read books like 'All Boys Aren’t Blue' cannot learn what is appropriate. They cannot learn about abuse," said Cameron Samuels, LGBTQ+ advocate.

The American Library Association said the number of book challenges doubled from 2021 to 2022.