In a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator John Kennedy ignited a heated debate by reading explicit graphic passages from books available in Illinois schools. Here’s the full story.
During the hearing, Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulis, who was a witness at the session, appeared visibly uncomfortable and “disturbed” as Senator Kennedy, a 71-year-old lawmaker, read explicit passages from two books—Gender Queer and All Boys Aren’t Blue.
The Controversial Books
The books have been at the center of controversy after being removed from some school libraries due to their explicit content.
Some of the words in the books include profanity and explicit references.
Giannoulis has been a prominent figure in his state’s legal efforts to prevent parents from having the authority to ban books they deem inappropriate for their children.
Blocking Government Funding to Libraries
Earlier in the summer, he advocated for blocking government funding to libraries that do not adhere to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which says that reading materials should not be removed or restricted due to “partisan or personal disapproval.”
The Senator Questioned Giannoulis
Following Senator Kennedy’s reading of highly explicit book passages, he questioned Giannoulis, asking, “What are you asking us to do? Are you suggesting that only librarians should decide whether the two books that I just referenced should be available to kids? Is that what you’re saying?”
Don’t Give Me a Speech
Giannoulis replied, “No,” but Kennedy pressed further saying, “Don’t give me a speech, tell me what you’re asking.”
The Words Are Very Disturbing
Giannoulis said, “With all due respect, senator, the words you spoke are disturbing – especially coming out of your mouth – is very disturbing. But what I would also tell you is that we’re not advocating for kids to read p***.”
Guise of Keeping Kids Safe
“We are advocating for parents, random parents not to have the ability – under the guise of keeping kids safe – to try and challenge the world view of every single person on these issues,” he added.
Rather than leaving the decision solely to librarians, Giannoulis stressed the importance of ensuring that “individual parents are [not] allowed to make a decision of where that line is in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ which involves a rape scene.”
Giannoulis argued that allowing such decisions could lead to a slippery slope.
Kennedy Shot Back
But Kennedy replied, “Well, I think you ought to think about it a little bit more before you come here.”
“If you’re going to propose something, you ought to be able – in 30 seconds – to be able to explain what you’re asking us to do,” he added.
Social Media Users Expressed Their Views
Several social media users shared their thoughts on the incident.
One user wrote, “They ARE coming for the children….no way to mask this no matter how you dice up the words.”
School Is for Children
Another user added, “School is for children, I think adults on both sides of arguments pertaining to school need to get out and mentally grow up.”
The Double Standard
A third user added, “What I don’t understand is that society is ok with saying kids can’t go to R-rated movies unless they’re 17 BUT trying to keep p*** out of grade school kids’ hands makes us Nazis. What’s wrong with keeping literature age-appropriate if we do it with film?”
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