The debate occurring in the Idaho Legislature over the content of the books in our public libraries needs to end swiftly. Idahoans have long valued our individual freedoms. It’s the reason many of us choose to live in this great state. Most of us share the belief that it is important to limit government intrusion into areas it doesn’t belong. Lawmakers need to respect and trust parents’ role as the primary arbiters of their children’s literary exposure. Banning books risks stifling diverse perspectives that contribute to a rich literary landscape and develop critical thinking skills. While you or I may find a particular book to be inappropriate for our child, another parent may think it is exactly the right book for their child, and that is the exercise of American freedom we all praise.
Barry Goldwater’s words ring true – “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from everything you have.” As Goldwater emphasized, the proper role of government is not to dictate morality, but to protect individual liberties. It is concerning that an increasing number of legislators are putting forth legislation that attempts to legislate morality at the cost of individual liberty. The late and formidable Justice Sandra Day O’Connor noted that the Constitution acknowledges the existence of the natural right of parents to rear their children. We cannot allow lawmakers to hijack our critical duty as parents.
Furthermore, creating a private right of action for which a librarian would be held accountable for a parent’s duty is absurd. Content that is most harmful to our children isn’t present in our libraries, it’s online. Parents need to remain engaged and involved in what their children are reading and watching to ensure it matches their values, rather than put a librarian in charge of arbitrarily filtering content.
A more effective approach to addressing “harmful” content (which likely means something different to everyone) involves open communication between parents, educators, and librarians, allowing for informed decisions and parental controls that respect individual freedoms while acknowledging parental concerns. Striking this delicate balance ensures a society that values both the protection of children and the preservation of freedom.
House Bill 384 bill usurps the important role of parents and violates our individual liberties. Let’s work together to protect our children from harmful content in more effective ways, instead of passing legislation that encroaches on our role and responsibilities as parents. I urge all Idahoans to write to their legislators to ask them to vote “no” on House Bill 384, as it is a bridge too far. Our children belong to us, not the government.