Senator Dave Min's Statement on the Proposed Book Ban in Huntington Beach Public Libraries
(HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA) - Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine) released the following statement ahead of tonight’s Huntington Beach City Council meeting where an ordinance will be considered to place a ban on “pornographic” or “obscene” books available throughout the city’s public libraries.
“I am deeply disturbed by the proposed book ban being considered tonight by the Huntington Beach City Council, particularly given what is happening right now in more reactionary parts of the country like Texas, Utah, and Missouri, which have enacted similar bans. This country has a long and proud tradition of free speech and emphasizing the marketplace of ideas, and nowhere has this tradition been more present than in our public libraries, which have been a key part of our California communities since 1850, when the public library system was founded here.
To say that book bans are un-American would, sadly, ignore the darkest days of our country’s history. A more accurate statement would be to say that book bans are contrary to our most cherished American values and correspond with the ugliest parts of our country’s history. Previous efforts to ban books—which like the proposed book ban you are considering today, claim to focus only on 'obscene' or 'pornographic' materials—have always been about targeting and erasing politically provocative ideas, and they represent a dark stain on our cherished traditions of robust free speech.
As a reminder, classics like Shakespeare and The Diary of Anne Frank were once banned in this country because they were seen as 'obscene' and 'pornographic.' During the McCarthy era, Senator McCarthy argued that Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath were 'obscene' because they encouraged protests against the status quo. The classic story of Robin Hood was famously banned as 'pornographic' around the same time because it encouraged class rebellion.
If parents choose not to expose their kids to certain materials or ideas, they are well within their rights to do so. If they are concerned about their children reading certain types of books in the library, they can accompany their kids to the public library and talk with them about why they do not believe their kids should be exposed to these.
But to call for a sweeping, overbroad ban on all controversial materials—as this ordinance purports to do—is not only illegal under the laws and Constitution of California and the United States, it is wrong. Because what you are aiming to do is to deny everyone access to certain ideas or materials, simply because some people find them controversial.
Public libraries have, and always will be, sacred places of intellectual freedom where our children can explore the depths of imagination, broaden their horizons, and grow into well-rounded individuals. They should never be used as tools of oppression or censorship.
Finally, I am concerned about the economic impacts of this ordinance, if passed. In addition to the large litigation costs that will certainly accompany this, the ordinance will further add to the growing perception that Surf City is a hostile and unwelcoming place to those with diverse ideas or perspectives. We have already witnessed a number of businesses sever ties with Huntington Beach in recent months, and I am concerned about the impacts that this proposed ordinance, which will be highly publicized if enacted, will have on tourism and business in this community.
I respectfully urge the Huntington Beach City Council to reject this proposed ordinance.”
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