State Watch

Tennessee lawmaker on books he objects to: ‘I would burn them’

A Tennessee state lawmaker said he would “burn” books taken out of school libraries during an exchange with another state lawmaker who asked what he proposed doing with the objectionable texts.

State Rep. Jerry Sexton, a Republican representing a region in East Tennessee, made the remark during a session of the Tennessee General Assembly on Wednesday.

During the exchange, state Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a Democrat who represents Nashville, asked Sexton what he would do when he “takes these books out of a library.”

“What are you going to do with them?” Clemmons asked, according to a clip of the exchange shared on Twitter. “Are you going to put them in the street? Light them on fire? Where are they going?”

Sexton responded that he doesn’t “have a clue.”

“But I would burn ’em,” he added.

The two were discussing an amendment that would require a state commission to issue a list of approved books, the Tennessean reported.

Sexton withdrew the amendment and then added another requiring the commission review school library collections, giving the commission the power to approve or deny books, the outlet noted.

Controversy has swirled around how to educate children in the school system amid Republican opposition to what they say are books that are oversexualized or indoctrinate students on political messaging regarding race or gender.

Tennessee is one of several conservative states that have banned books from classrooms and school libraries. Tennessee has banned 16, while Texas leads with 713.

Last year, nearly 1,600 complaints were lodged against books in more than 700 libraries across the country. The Hill has compiled a list of the 10 books most targeted in the U.S.

Some Republican-led states have also banned the teaching of other topics and ideas like critical race theory, an academic framework based on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions.

The most high-profile law banning certain topics in the education system was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in Florida, who banned the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools from kindergarten to third grade.

Tags Banned books Ron DeSantis Tennessee

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