The door is opening in Kansas for the wholesale elimination of art, literature, and discussion containing any hint of sexual material. These things will not be banned, they will be discarded through coercion and threats.
Under a Republican bill approved by the Kansas Senate in 2015, and now under consideration by a Kansas House committee, teachers would be stripped of protections currently in place, facing fines or up to six months in prison for using materials that implicitly or explicitly mention sex acts.
A Democratic congressman asked the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook,
whether a teacher could be prosecuted for showing an image of Michelangelo’s sculpture David, which depicts male genitalia. He quoted sexual puns in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and asked whether teaching the play could be a criminal offense.
Pilcher-Cook said that would have to be decided by individual prosecutors and juries, an ignorant statement expressing how vague and poorly-defined such a law would inevitably be (“What counts as a criminal offense? You’ll find out after you’re arrested”). It reminds one of what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said of “hardcore pornography” in 1964:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…
Proponents of the measure insist children must be protected from “harmful material,” defined as that with “any description, exhibition, presentation or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse.”