Lawmakers Spar Over Book Ban Bill

By Benjamin Cox on March 29, 2023 at 9:37am

The Illinois House passed a bill last Wednesday to stop book banning in Illinois public and school libraries.

The bill was being pushed by Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias who administers several grant programs for public and school libraries as well as adult literacy programs throughout the state. The bill came in response to a wave of high-profile controversies throughout the country, including at least one in Illinois. School districts and public libraries have come under pressure to remove certain material from their collections, often material dealing with issues involving race, sexuality, and gender identity. At the end of last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Parental Bill of Rights legislation, which has provisions that would give parents the right to inspect books and other library materials at their child’s school.

The Illinois General Assembly bill would require that as a condition of qualifying for state grants in the future, libraries or library systems would have to adopt a written policy prohibiting the practice of banning books. Alternatively, they could adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which includes a statement that “(m)aterials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

81st District Democratic State Representative Anne Stava-Murray of Naperville says it’s disgusting that the General Assembly has to even address the problem: “Nobody is forcing you or your children to check out, or purchase, or read these books. If they are not consistent with your personal beliefs, don’t read them.”

100th District State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer, who previously has served on the Jacksonville Public library board, says that Republican opposition to the bill isn’t about banning books. It’s about maintaining local control with library boards and ultimately holding parents responsible for what their children read: “It’s very simple. I don’t want any books banned. The majority of people don’t want any books banned. The idea is to make sure that books are age appropriate to ensure that parents have access to what their kids are seeing and reading. We have to kind of get away from the thought that government and elected officials can be raising our kids. We are parents for a reason. I just think that at the end of the day the books should be available, anybody should be able to pick out what they want, but parents should be able to see what their kids are reading and it all should be age appropriate.”

Stava-Murray rejected Davidsmeyer and other House Republicans’ arguments saying the bill only adds another condition onto the rules to qualify for state grants through the Secretary of State. Davidsmeyer says anyone should be able to check out what they want: “That’s where a parent can say: ‘Look, my kid should not be reading this.’ Just because I don’t want to read a book or I disagree with a certain author, doesn’t mean that someone else shouldn’t be able to pick that up and read it.”

The bill passed the House on a 69-39 vote. Three Democrats and one Republican were recorded as present but not voting. The bill next goes to the Senate for consideration.