To hear some on the right say it, concerns on the left about treating people with respect have made Republicans the nation. true champions of freedom of expression. It’s definitely a prospect.
But here’s another one: The GOP is also the party to pull books from libraries if conservatives find them offensive. This is the party desperate to control what some doctors say to their patients and what many educators say to their students.
And from time to time, it’s even the party that welcomes those who like to burn books.
Last fall, for example, some conservative school board members in a local community in Virginia not only targeted LGBTQ+ books in a school library, but also said at a town hall meeting that they would like to see deleted books burned.
Yesterday, as the Washington Post reported, it came back to the surface.
The Republican-led Tennessee State House on Wednesday passed a bill that would require public school librarians to submit a list of book titles to the state for approval, as a GOP lawmaker suggested burning books. books deemed inappropriate.
At stake was a debate over a proposal that has generated fierce debate: Instead of letting librarians choose books for school collections, Tennessee Republicans want to give the state’s textbook commission the power to approve or reject books in school libraries.
Republican State Rep. Jerry Sexton, one of the bill’s sponsors, argued in the House that it would help ensure libraries have ‘age-appropriate books’ – as he considered certain texts in school libraries as “obscene”.
Democratic state Rep. John Ray Clemmons wanted to know what would happen to books that conservatives deemed inappropriate. “Are you going to put them in the street? Set them on fire? Where are they going?” asked Clemons.
“I have no idea, but I would burn them”, Sexton responded.
“That’s what I thought,” Clemmons said.
Coincidentally, shortly after this debate unfolded in Nashville, the White House hosted an event to honor Teachers of the Year. President Joe Biden spoke at length at the rally and at one point told attendees, “Today there are too many politicians trying to score political points, trying to ban books, even math books. I mean, did you ever think – even you young teachers – did you ever think, when you were teaching, that you would be worried about burning books and banning books, all because it doesn’t fit someone’s political agenda?
It was a timely question.