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‘Who decides?’ asks Sen. Kennedy in HEATED debate about parental rights and 'banned books'

Published in Blog on September 13, 2023 by Jakob Fay

Sen. John Kennedy bashed Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias and a student activist in a heated Senate judiciary hearing on Illinois’ “anti-book ban law,” criticizing their refusal to answer what role parents should play in determining what books are allowed in the hands of students. The controversial law in question, signed by Governor J. B. Pritzker earlier this year, penalizes schools that “ban” certain age-inappropriate books from libraries.

“What this law does,” Giannoulias previously stated, “is it says, let’s trust our experience and education of our librarians to decide what books should be in circulation.”

Surrounded by explicit books in a kids’ library, Gov. Pritzker argued that “book bans are about… marginalizing people…. Regimes ban books…. Illinois will become the first state in the nation to officially ban book bans once and for all.”

Quoting sexually explicit passages (Newsweek called them “pornographic”) from “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Gender Queer,” two LGBTQ+ books banned in many libraries, Senator Kennedy asked in a Senate hearing this week “whether only librarians should decide whether the two books that I just referenced should be available to kids?” When Giannoulias refused to answer the question straightforwardly, a heated debate ensued. 

“We’re advocating for parents, random parents, not to have the ability, under the guise of keeping kids safe, to try and challenge the worldview of every single manner on these issues,” Giannoulias said.

“Who decides, ultimately,” Kennedy readdressed his question to a student activist witness. “How do we decide whether the two books that I just referenced should be available in the library?” The second witness also dodged the question, instead suggesting students who do not read these books might not be properly educated.

“Tell me who gets to decide,” the Senator fired back. “All I’ve heard is the librarians and parents have nothing to do with it. And if that’s your response, what planet did you just parachute in from?”

Watch the full exchange below (warning: explicit content):

Ultimately, this serves as a call to action for parents to stand up to politicians who seek to undermine their rights. Don’t fall for the insidious semantics: to men like Alexi Giannoulias, “banning books” means “keeping porn out of schools.” Regardless of what they say, they aren’t anti-book bans—they’re anti-parental rights and pro-porn in schools.

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