Monitoring State Legislation That Criminalizes Libraries, Schools, and Museums 2023

EveryLibrary is monitoring legislation during the 2023-2024 session that aims to change state obscenity and harmful to minors laws to allow for the prosecution of librarians, educators, college and university faculty, and museum professionals. 

EveryLibrary tracked nine bills during the 2021-2022 session which would redefine state obscenity or harmful to minors laws to affect librarians and educators. Three passed, including Oklahoma's H3702 (2022), Tennessee's SB2292 / HB 2454 (2021), and Missouri's SB775 (2022). During the 2023-2024 session, it is vitally important for state library association leadership to engage any proposed legislation and work actively to oppose it. EveryLibrary provides state library associations with free digital organizing resources and targeted online campaign tools via action.everylibrary.org, Save School Librarians, or the new Fight for the First platform. State partners can immediately access their state file of voters and library activists. EveryLibrary is proud to provide financial support for outreach as well as hosting its own independent expenditures to help amplify messaging.

The EverLibrary Institute has released a Policy Brief "Opposing Attempts to Criminalize Libraries and Education Through State Obscenity Laws" (January 2023) to help state library associations anticipate this legislation and properly prepare to oppose unnecessary politicized changes to settled state law. If your state is facing legislation that looks to amend or repeal the types of bona fide institutions or professions that have a defense from prosecution exemption under current obscenity law, this Policy Brief is intended to provide you with actionable insights into ways to build a broad-based common cause coalition to oppose bad policies.


2023 Legislation Changing State Obscenity and Harmful to Minors Legislation

Updated as of January 27, 2023

Arkansas - SB81 (2023)
(Introduced 1/18/23)
https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/Bills/Detail?id=sb81&ddBienniumSession=2023%2F2023R
To Amend The Law Concerning Obscene Materials; To Create The Offense Of Furnishing A Harmful Item To A Minor; And To Amend The Law Concerning Obscene Materials Loaned By A Library.

Indiana - SB12 and HB1130 (2023) -Material harmful to minors
(In Committee 1/10/23)
https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2023/bills/senate/12/ and
https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2023/bills/house/1130/ 
SB12 and Hb1130 are both described as "Removes schools and certain public libraries from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions alleging: (1) the dissemination of material harmful to minors; or (2) a performance harmful to minors. Adds colleges and universities to the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions alleging: (1) the dissemination of material harmful to minors; or (2) a performance harmful to minors."

Indiana - HB1522 (2023)
(In Committee 1/19/2023)
https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2023/bills/house/1522/ 
Removes defense from prosecution for schools, museums, and public libraries for materials or performance.

Maine - LD123 (2023) - An Act to Eliminate the Educational Purposes Exception to the Prohibition on the Dissemination of Obscene Matter to Minors
(1/10/2023 In Committee)
https://legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?LD=123&snum=131
This bill eliminates an exception to the prohibition on the dissemination of obscene materials to minors for educational purposes in public schools.

Mississippi - SB2141 (2023) - An Act To Amend Section 97-29-107, Mississippi Code Of 1972, To Delete The Exemption For Any Public School Library In This State From The Crime Of Distributing Obscene Materials; And For Related Purposes.
(Introduced 1/9/2023 and Referred to Judiciary)
http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2023/pdf/history/SB/SB2141.xml
Would delete the exemption for public school libraries among other provisions.

Montana - HB234 (2023) - Revise dissemination of obscene material to minors laws
(Died in Committee 01/31/2023)
https://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/LAW0210W$BSIV.ActionQuery?P_BILL_NO1=234&P_BLTP_BILL_TYP_CD=HB&Z_ACTION=Find&P_SESS=20231
As introduced, would repeal the defense from prosecution exemption for public libraries and museums.

Nebraska - LB441 (2023) - Change provisions relating to obscenity
(Introduced 01/13/2023)
https://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/view_bill.php?DocumentID=50448
As introduced, would remove public libraries from defense from prosecution exemption.

New Hampshire - HB514 (2023) - Relative to the dissemination of obscene material by schools and institutions of higher learning.
(Introduced 01/05/2023 and referred to Education)
This bill requires local school boards to develop a policy for responding to parental complaints of obscene material in schools.

North Dakota - HB1205 (2023) - Objectionable materials or performances
(In committee 1/9/2023)
https://www.ndlegis.gov/assembly/68-2023/regular/bill-overview/bo1205.html
Removes public libraries from defense from prosecution; removes "bona fide" from other defined institutions; changes overall defense from "shall" to "may"; prohibits public libraries from maintaining sexually explicit books.

North Dakota - SB2123 (2023) - Relating to displaying objectionable materials or performance to minors; and to provide a penalty.
(In Committee 1/23/2023)
https://www.ndlegis.gov/assembly/68-2023/regular/bill-overview/bo2123.html
Removes bona fide school, college, university, museum, public library, or art gallery from defense from prosecution.

North Dakota - SB2360 (2023) - Obscenity control; to provide a penalty; and to provide an effective date.
(In committee 1/23/2023)
https://www.ndlegis.gov/assembly/68-2023/regular/bill-overview/bo2360.html
Removes schools and public libraries from defense from prosecution; amends the Miller Test in novel ways; provides for new safety policies. 

New Hampshire - HB514 (2023) - Relative to the dissemination of obscene material by schools and institutions of higher learning.
(In Committee 1/11/23)
https://gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/legacy/bs2016/bill_status.aspx?lsr=0720&sy=2023&sortoption=&txtsessionyear=2023&txtbillnumber=HB514
Removes K-12 schools from exemptions. Creates a new "complaint review" policy framework for local schools. 

Pennsylvania - HB 2815 (2022) - Amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in public indecency, further providing for the offense of obscene and other sexual materials and performances.
(Listed as 'Dead' 11/30/22)
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2021&sInd=0&body=H&type=B&bn=2815
This short bill would remove school libraries from exemption from prosecution under state obscenity laws while letting current exemptions for public libraries, college and university libraries, and other bona fide professions stand. 

South Carolina - HB3826 (2023)Protection of Minors from Pornography and Obscenities Act
(In Committee 1/26/2023)
https://www.scstatehouse.gov/billsearch.php?billnumbers=3826&session=125&summary=B
Removes museum, public, school, college, or university library from exemptions.

South Dakota - HB1163 (2023) -An Act to prohibit the dissemination of obscene material to minors in a public school or public library.
(introduced 1/23/2023)
https://sdlegislature.gov/Session/Bill/24265/246679 
Mandates that public libraries and public schools have policies that restricts minors from viewing, accessing, or obtaining obscene material.

Texas - HB111 (2023) - Relating to affirmative defenses to prosecution for certain offenses involving material or conduct that is obscene or otherwise harmful to children.
(Filed 11/14/22)
https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=88R&Bill=HB111
Removes education from the definition of bona fide settings which have defense from prosecution; adds "legislative" to protected institutions. 

West Virginia - HB2923 (2023) - To modify exemptions from criminal liability to include a distinction for biological lessons regarding reproduction.
(Introduced 1/23/2023)
http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/Bills_history.cfm?input=2923&year=2023&sessiontype=RS&btype=bill
Eliminates "Public Libraries" from defense from prosecution; adds limits to schools as only "in science or health curriculum related to biological lessons regarding reproduction".

West Virginia - HB2989 (2023) - Removing bona fide schools, public libraries, and museums from the list of exemptions from criminal liability relating to distribution and display to minor of obscene matter
(In Committee 1/24/23)
http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/Bills_history.cfm?input=2980&year=2023&sessiontype=RS&btype=bill
R
emoves schools, museums, and public libraries from the exemption.

Wyoming - HB0087 (2023) - Crimes of obscenity-revisions.
(Introduced 01/06/23)
https://www.wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2023/HB0087
Would amend the definition of child pornography to include cartoons and other depictions; would repeal the exemption for school, college, university, museum or public library.

Wyoming - HB0283 (2023) 
(Introduced 1/27/23)
https://www.wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2023/HB0283 
Adds a new caveat to the exemption clause which clarifies that activities that could be considered exempt are conducted according to policy.

Wyoming - SF0177 (2023) - Promoting obscenity-educational exception repeal 
(Introduced 1/24/23)
https://www.wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2023/SF0177
Repeals the exemption at 6-4-302(c)(ii) for "bona fide school, college, university, museum or public library activities or in the course of employment of such an organization."

 


This page will be updated as new information is available. 


 

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