Texas House Bill HB900, which would require book vendors and teachers to rate books based on their sexual content, has been denounced by several organizations, such as the American Booksellers for Free Expression. Let’s take a look at what the proposed bill is and why it’s an issue.
What is HB900?
The bill comes from a long line of controversial legislation across the country in regard to book banning. It requires suppliers of books, like bookstores, as well as libraries, librarians, and teachers, to rate books based on their sexual content.
A book will receive a “sexually relevant” rating if it describes/portrays sexual material and is part of the required school curriculum. A book will receive a “sexually explicit” rating if it portrays sexual behavior in a way that is “patently offensive” and not part of the school curriculum. Texas state law defines “patently offensive” as materials that violate the “current community standards of decency.”
The Response to the Proposed Bill
American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) was quick to denounce HB900, stating that they were disappointed that Governor Greg Abbott “ignored the outpouring of opposition from booksellers and Texans across the state and signed HB900 into law. HB900 is an onerous law that will chill speech, and it could threaten the livelihoods of independent bookstores. The governor described HB900 as ’empowering parents,’ an ironic statement at best. The government dictating what other parents’ children can and cannot read is hardly empowering to parents or students.”
ABFE also explained why exactly the bill was so detrimental, as the law would lead vendors to “inevitably err on the side of caution by not selling or carrying a book title for fear it might run afoul of the law. Whether or not a book or materials are ‘sexually relevant’ or ‘sexually explicit’ is inherently prejudiced and could result in different ratings from different vendors.”
Still concerned about book bans in America? Here are the organizations fighting them.