By Alex Oliveira
A Tennessee state lawmaker declared that he would burn banned books if given his way during a Tennessee General Assembly session Wednesday.
State Rep. Jerry Sexton, a Republican from eastern Tennessee, made the comments during a discussion about legislation he proposed that would give a commission of politicians the power to veto books out of school libraries.
Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a Democrat from Nashville, asked Sexton what he would do with the removed books.
‘You going to put them in the street? Light them on fire? Where are they going?’ he asked.
‘I don´t have a clue, but I would burn ’em,’ Sexton responded on the House floor.
‘That’s what I thought.’ Clemmons concluded.
Rep. Jerry Sexton, a Republican representing a district in east Tennessee, said that he would like to burn books that he felt should be banned on Wednesday
Rep. John Ray Clemmons had asked Sexton what he would like to do with books that were banned. Upon hearing Sexton’s reply, Clemmons said ‘That’s what I thought.’
The Republican-supermajority House approved the bill in a 66-26 vote.
Sexton’s legislation and comments come after a national debate around banned books was sparked when a Tennessee school board removed the book Maus – a Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel by Art Spiegelman, who is Jewish, that paints an unfiltered picture of the Holocaust – from its district’s curriculum in January.
In Nazi Germany books by Jewish authors and books with content decreed disagreeable were publicly burned by the tens of thousands.
Debate about book banning was sparked when a Tennessee school district removed Maus, an award winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its curriculum
The American Library Association found a record number of challenges to books in 2021. Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman, was one of the most challenged books
Earlier this year, Sexton lashed out at librarians during a legislative hearing that included testimony from some who alleged without proof that educators were attempting to ‘groom’ children with sexually explicit materials found in libraries.
‘I don´t appreciate what´s going in our libraries, what´s being put in front of our children and shame on you for putting it there,’ Sexton said at the time.
Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, from Knoxville, said the legislation aimed at libraries was taking ‘Tennessee in a dangerous direction.’
Certain books have long faced removal from American schools for profane language, sexually explicit content, and even for mere negativity, but the past few years have seen an increase in complaints and actions against books, largely in conservative-dominated states.
Conservative lawmakers have begun challenging some books on the grounds that they are being used to brainwash America’s youth about race and gender.
During a Wednesday event at the White House to honor teachers, President Biden weighed in on the subject.
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, was one of the top ten most challenged books in 2021. A challenged book is a book that has been the subject of official removal attempts
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee made the top ten list of challenged books in 2021. To Kill a Mockingbird has been a banned book stalwart since its publication in 1960
‘There are too many politicians trying to score political points trying to ban books, even math books,’ he said, referring to the recent ban of a number of math textbooks in Florida, ‘Did you ever think when you’d be teaching you’re gonna be worried about book burnings and banning books all because it doesn’t fit somebody’s political agenda?’
A recent report from PEN America, a non-profit dedicated to promoting free expression through literature, found that there are currently 1,586 instances of books being banned or restricted in the United States.
Those bans are in 86 school districts across 26 states.
Texas has the most books banned at 713. Pennsylvania has 456, Florida has 204, Oklahoma has 43, Kansas has 30, and Tennessee has 16, according to that report.