Nampa Board Reverses Itself on Sex-Ed Books

Nampa Board Reverses Itself on Sex-Ed Books

The Nampa (Idaho) Public Library board voted unanimously September 5 to return to open circulation The Joy of Gay Sex and The New Joy of Sex in the latest move in a two-year battle between area social conservatives and freedom-to-read advocates regarding the books’ presence in the library collection.

The trustees’ decision to return the books to the stacks came two weeks after the ACLU of Idaho wrote Nampa Mayor Tom Dale that the organization would file suit if the titles were not moved back to the shelves from the library director’s office within 14 days. The board approved the books’ restriction in March, and reaffirmed the action in June, stipulating that it was complying with Idaho statute by shielding children from library holdings that could fall under the state’s harmful-to-minors statute.

Declaring the sequestration policy to be in violation of the First Amendment, the August 25 letter (pdf files) from three pro-bono ACLU attorneys emphasized that free-speech “precepts apply with particular force to public libraries.” Conceding that the books remained available by request, the correspondence went on to say that “even though a policy does not silence speech altogether, policies that suppress, disadvantage, or impose differential burdens upon speech are subject to exacting scrutiny.”

Randy Jackson, who first filed his complaint about the titles in 2006, said in the September 9 Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune, “Some things are worth fighting for despite the cost. When it comes to material that by law is deemed harmful to minors, you shouldn’t let a law firm bully you into doing something that goes against your conscience.” Bryan Fischer, executive director of the American Family Association’s Idaho affiliate, backed Jackson in a September 8 Idaho Values Alliance press release that stated, “It’s an abysmal state of affairs when a single letter from cultural thugs can undo two years of patient and pain-staking work on the part of Mr. Jackson, concerned citizens, and the library board.”

Posted on September 17, 2008. Discuss.