West Virginia House to Vote on Legislation That Might Result in Librarians Facing Jail Time

A proposal is set to go before the House of Delegates that would potentially make it a felony for librarians to expose minors to obscene content.

Legislator Del. Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh made a passionate plea on Monday for backing of his bill, labeling libraries as “the sanctuary for pedophilia” and emphasizing the need for accountability when it comes to exposing children to inappropriate material.

Steele addressed the House Committee on the Judiciary, stating, “If it’s a crime in the parking lot, it’s a crime in the building — period,” vowing to crack down on those who threaten the well-being of children.

State law currently exempts libraries from prohibitions on displaying or sharing obscene content with minors.

House Bill 4654, after facing delays following a public hearing filled with controversial readings, has advanced with a 21-3 vote from the Judiciary Committee.

Opponents, which include some lawmakers and librarians, argue that the bill’s ambiguous definition of obscenity may give way to censorship and potential legal repercussions for library staff.

Potential penalties for violators could amount to a $25,000 fine or a maximum of five years in prison under existing laws concerning obscenity in relation to minors.

A debate surrounding the impact of the bill on libraries ensued, with concerns raised about the potential removal of certain books and the financial burden it may place on librarians.

Various viewpoints were expressed, with some legislators questioning the efficacy of the current library screening process and emphasizing the importance of protecting children from explicit content.

The bill is scheduled to be reviewed by the full House before February 25, prompting further discussion and deliberation on its implications.

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