NAMPA, Idaho Public library leaders in Nampa, responding to a lawsuit threatened by the American Civil Liberties Union, have reversed a decision limiting patrons’ access to two sex-education books.
In June, the library board voted 3-2 to permanently remove The New Joy of Sex and The Joy of Gay Sex from its public shelves, ending months of controversy and indecision. The board ordered the books be stored instead in the library director’s office, available only upon request.
But last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho sent a letter threatening to sue the board, contending the ban violated the constitutional right to free and open access to information.
During an emergency meeting Sept. 5 night, the board reversed course, citing financial concerns of defending a First Amendment case in federal court. During the meeting, Nampa City Attorney Terry White suggested the case could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight.
“The ACLU of Idaho commends the Nampa Public Library Board of Trustees for making information freely accessible and for respecting the First Amendment rights of its patrons, “ staff attorney Lea Cooper said in a statement.
The decision also reverses the board’s June vote to amend library policy to restrict minors’ access to any future library acquisitions that have graphic sexual illustrations that meet the definition of “harmful to minors” under state law, library spokesman Dan Black said.
The books, which contain drawings and photos of sexual activity, first drew criticism in 2005 from Randy Jackson, director of a Christian activist group called “Youth 4 Revolution,” based in Nampa.
Board members in 2006 unanimously rejected Jackson’s request to remove the books from the shelves. But three new board members appointed by Nampa Mayor Tom Dale Bruce Skaug, Kim Keller and Sandy Levi voted in support of the ban this summer. Skaug later resigned from the board after being identified as an anonymous blogger who complained opponents of the ban had a “messed up view of sex.”
Jackson said he was disappointed by the policy change, but wondered why the board didn’t consider other alternatives.
“We felt it was a fair compromise, because it kept the books in the library but not where kids could reach them,” Jackson said. “I understand why (the board) decided to do that, but I guess they would just think that some things are worth fighting for despite the cost.”