Local NewsLeague City Council Votes to Remove ‘Obscene’ Books From Children’s Section of Library

The city will prohibit the use of taxpayer funds for explicit materials targeted to children and start moving those materials to the library's adult section.
December 7, 2022
After taking nearly three hours of heated public testimony Tuesday night, the League City Council approved a measure prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for obscene materials targeted to children and creating a process for moving such materials already in the library to the adult section.

The proposal, authored by councilmembers Andy Mann and Justin Hicks, specifically prohibits purchasing materials that contain obscenity or other harmful content that feature “pedophilia and/or incest” or “rape and bondage,” including those “romanticizing” such topics.

Additionally, the prohibition will apply to books that discuss or depict “any type of sex, nudity, sexual preference or related topics where the intended audience is below the age of 10,” but language on gender ideology and “ideologue human sexuality” was struck from the final version approved by council.

Approved in a 4 to 3 vote, the proposal also created a new committee composed of members of the community and the library’s board to review materials after receiving complaints.

Most public speakers voiced opposition to the resolution, with several citing the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement.

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“There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression,” said one resident, who did not identify himself.

Marika Fuller, reading a statement on behalf of a library staffer, said, “I’ll raise my family the way I see fit, not the way the council dictates it.” Fuller added that the materials in question had been “vetted by librarians who are highly trained professionals.”

While library staff informed the council a process was already in place to review objectionable materials, several parents said after filing complaints they had never received a response. Justin Russell said that despite sending his documented complaint via certified mail, the library did not respond.

Parent Josh Foxworth read aloud a passage from “Identical,” a book available in the library’s youth section that explicitly described a father raping his daughter. As Foxworth read, members of the public attempted to shout him down and prevent him from proceeding.

“This is not a book about surviving abuse, this is a romance novel for people who want to molest kids,” said Foxworth.

Other parents and teachers described books found in the toddler section promoting gender fluidity and in the young adult section containing “cartoon pornography,” a lengthy list of sexual activities, and claims that virginity is “made-up.”

Council member Chad Tressler, who voted against the proposal, explained that state law already prohibits libraries from purchasing obscene materials. He also expressed concern over whether the city’s prohibition could meet the legal threshold that says objectionable material must be “appealing to or arousing the prurient nature of the audience.”

“As gross as those excerpts were that were read tonight, I don’t believe any of them were written with the intent to arouse,” said Tressler. “So, it’s not going to meet the word objectionable.”

Tressler added that he was not comfortable with objections going to a citizens committee.

“Librarians are professionals,” said Tressler. “If we don’t trust our librarians, why do they work for us?”

Council member John Bowen said that while he had no children of his own, he did not support obscene or harmful content for any children.

“What I object to is a government taking the stance that they know what’s best for someone’s family,” quipped Bowen.

Mayor Nick Long explained that the library’s review policy had never been approved by the city council. Under his proposal, he said no books or materials would be banned, only reclassified and moved to the adult section.

Long also noted the library’s existing process for handling questionable materials did not include an appeal process as required by law, and suggested a possible conflict of interest in having only the library board review complaints.

“The library board is ultimately the people that work with staff to purchase the materials,” said Long. “So, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that when somebody finds something objectionable, they would appeal to the people who ultimately bought the material to begin.”

A group of citizens has sued Llano County over a policy to remove access to sexually explicit materials from the shelves and electronic databases of the county’s libraries. The case, Little et al v. Llano County et al, remains pending before a federal court.

Texas parents and lawmakers have sought more stringent controls over explicit materials in schools and libraries over the past few years. Most recently, state Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) filed challenges to sexually explicit books in Frisco ISD’s library resources.

Some opponents of the League City proposal accused the council of conflating pedophilia with the LGBT community and said the more stringent standards could harm some children, but Council Member Tommy Cones said the intent of the resolution was “not to harm the gay community.”

“My intent tonight is to protect everyone that we can, and especially the young kids,” said Cones. “I don’t think materials need to be placed in the kids’ sections for them to review without a parent with them.”

“This is a parent’s decision, not a librarian’s, not a City Council’s, and especially not a governing body to determine what they could read, but if it’s out there in public or if it’s out there on the shelf for them to pick up, we have a problem.”


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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.

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