By TESS VRBIN | Arkansas Advocate
An Arkansas Senate committee approved a bill Monday that would open the door to criminal liability for the distribution of “obscene” content by libraries.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to pass the bill after hearing testimony from only 16 of the 23 members of the public who signed up to speak for or against the bill.
Senate Bill 81 would remove schools and public libraries from the part of Arkansas state code that currently exempts them from prosecution “for disseminating a writing, film, slide, drawing, or other visual reproduction that is claimed to be obscene” under existing obscenity laws.
The state’s definition of obscenity is “that to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest,” with prurient meaning overtly sexual.
Senate Bill 81 would not amend the definition of obscenity, but it would add the loaning of library materials to the statute governing the possession and distribution of obscene material.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro), the bill’s sponsor, said the policy would allow parents to be more aware of what their children are reading and protect children from sexually explicit content.
“We don’t let kids smoke, we don’t let kids drink, we don’t let them drive — the list can go on forever,” Sullivan said. “We protect children in this way. This bill seeks to add library material that’s inappropriate to that list of things the state of Arkansas is willing to do to protect our children.”
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