Missouri House votes to strip state funding from public libraries

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 9:12 AM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - House lawmakers also on Tuesday voted to strip all state funding from public libraries.

Republican House Budget Chairman Cody Smith last week cut the roughly $4.5 million in public library funding from the budget, citing a lawsuit by two library groups to overturn a new Missouri law that bans sexually explicit material in school libraries.

The ACLU, the Missouri Association of School Librarians, and the Missouri Library Association in February asked the Circuit Court in Kansas City to find the law unconstitutional or clarify how and when it applies.

Smith has said the state shouldn’t subsidize the lawsuit by giving public libraries money.

The law, passed last year, does not apply to written descriptions of sex or sexual acts; only photos, drawings, videos and other visual depictions are prohibited.

Librarians and other school officials face up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine for violating the policy, which makes it a crime to provide minors with sexually explicit visual material. Exceptions are provided for works of art, science classes, and other educational courses.

“Who do we want to be in here?” State Rep. Peter Merideth asked colleagues on the House floor. “The ones banning books and defunding public libraries when they dare to question whether that was constitutional?”

Republican Rep. Dirk Deaton of Noel defended the law and the decision to strip public library funding in response to the lawsuit.

“It’s been said this is a book ban. This is not that,” Deaton said. “It is protecting innocent children.”

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