Kansas GOP Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook Wants To Criminalize “Harmful” Books

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee

A Republican senator in Kansas, Mary Pilcher-Cook, has introduced a bill to the state house to amend the current public morals standard. Senate Bill 56 would, according to The Courthouse News Service, “… amend Kansas’ public morals statute by deleting an exemption that protects K-12 public, private and parochial schoolteachers from being prosecuted for presenting material deemed harmful to minors.” In other words, any book could result in the arrest, prosecution, and possibly jailing of teachers and librarians, if “deemed harmful to minors.”

As I was reading two separate articles on SB 56, our 17-year old son came home from school. He takes AP English, and has been assigned books that Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook would find harmful, most recently reading 1984 by George Orwell. He’s also read The Shining, Huckleberry Finn, all the Harry Potter books, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and this coming summer, will hopefully devour Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. But Senator Pilcher-Cook’s bill doesn’t stop at criminalizing books; she also wants to punish sex-ed teachers. I asked our son what he thought of the Kansas bill. He shook his head, and said:

Books don’t influence kids to go “be gay,” or to believe in another god, or anything like that. And health education is very important; it supplies knowledge you need to know, and helps kids know how to prevent pregnancy if they decide to have sex. 

People in power have tried to ban books for hundreds of years, under the guise of “protection.” Protection from what, exactly? Ideas that differ from your own? Lewd content? Who decides what is lewd, or dangerous? Some Republican politician, who probably read Flowers in the Attic eons ago, and believes young-adult fiction has nothing else to offer? JK Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, has seen her books banned by right-wing Christians because they deal with magic. Some of the most wonderful books every written have been banned, and always for the same reason: Someone without a clue decides a book is “bad.” Here are just some of the books that made the American Library Associations of Banned or Challenged books from over a six-year period of time (2008-2013), and the reason for the ban or challenge.


*Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

*The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group


*The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

*Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence


*Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

*To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Reasons: offensive language; racism


*Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint

*Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence


*The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

*The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier. Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group (this is one of our son’s favorite books)


*Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz. Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence

*And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group

The list goes on. In 2007, The Golden Compass made the list; the reason given was “religious viewpoint.” Religious viewpoint. It is most likely that Senator Pilcher-Cook is a fundamentalist Christian, as are many other conservative Republicans. This means any book that does not conform to their viewpoint could be “deemed harmful.” Does that strike anyone else as frightening? And as for criminalizing the teaching of sex-ed, this is truly confusing. The right-wing is staunchly pro-fetus, so one would think conservatives might support education that gives young adults – who are most likely going to have sex anyway-the knowledge and tools to protect themselves from STDs, and unwanted pregnancy. National data shows teaching sex-ed  is more effective at reducing teen pregnancy than abstinence-only programs.

Banning books, criminalizing health and human sexuality classes, and using some sort of fundamentalist Christian barometer to determine what is and is not harmful to a student is incredibly dangerous. It also sounds a lot like what ISIL is doing in Syria:

In swaths of Syria now controlled by ISIS/ISIL , children can no longer study math or social studies. Sports are out of the question. And students will be banned from learning about elections and democracy.

Instead, they’ll be subjected to the teachings of the radical Islamist group. And any teacher who dares to break the rules “will be punished.”

ISIL has also banned the teaching of evolution, and:

…teachers must say that the laws of physics and chemistry “are due to Allah’s rules and laws.” (source)

A group of religious extremists, demanding children be taught nothing of importance, never use their imaginations, and never learn anything other than strict, religious dogma.

For years, many Americans have noticed similarities between fundamentalist Christians and Islamic extremists, especially when it comes to education and sex. Sex is bad, unless you’re married to a person of the opposite sex. Education must be bible-based, creationism should be taught in school, and abstinence-only education is the only option. We have Republicans who are probably running for president who do not believe in evolution, do not support the separation of church and state, and would very much like to use our tax dollars to teach kids attending public schools that dinosaurs and people lived together.

Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook is tiptoeing down a sinister path. Kansas cannot sign this bill into law. I echo Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, when she said the bill, if voted into law, would have a “chilling effect on teachers and librarians who don’t want to be prosecuted.” Imagine a world where recommending Catcher in the Rye, or Tom Sawyer, or a Judy Blume book, could result in imprisonment.

Chilling indeed.

Erin Nanasi

Erin Nanasi is the creator of The Bachmann Diaries: Satirical Excerpts from Michele Bachmann's Fictional Diary. She hates writing about herself in the third person. Erin enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with family. And wombats. Come visit Erin on on Facebook. She also can be found on Twitter at @WriterENanasi.


Facebook comments

  • rejectrepublicanlies

    What year is this?

    • teacher


  • thevofl

    What about banning the Bible? I’m pretty sure that it could be banned for : unsuited for age group; violence; religious viewpoint; racism; sexually explicit; insensitivity; nudity; racism; inaccurate; political viewpoint; anti-ethnic; and anti-family.

    • Renadt

      Sadly, they gloss over those points, and it conforms to their viewpoint.

      • thevofl

        Damn. I didn’t get that in the rule book.

    • Gary Menten

      Historically one of the most dangerous texts ever written.

      • Aceistheplace

        It seems the Koran is as well l hope though it is zealots not the vast majority of Islamists. I just wish more Islamic leaders would call for a halt to killing other religions even other Muslims instead of saying nothing or going along with it.

      • Gary Menten

        I don’t disagree with you at all, but it’s American Christians calling on Americans to burn books, which seems to me the most un-American and most undemocratic of all possible activities, so I thought I would start with them.

      • Bepe13

        How many Christian leaders have called for the banning of assault weapons in the US? Expand that thought to the world?

    • Yitzhak Finnegan

      You forgot to include Pro-slavery (Exodus 21:7, Lev 25:44).

  • Gary Menten

    Dear Dingbat Mary,

    If you are advocating violating the 1st Amendment, why not go the whole distance and start by burning the Bible (both testaments please.) Certainly, it’s one of the most dangerous books ever written.

  • Cthulhu

    I am so SICK of these fascist, know nothing, incompetent MORONS! And what’s worse? There are people STUPIDER than they are, electing them, again and again!

    • Max Wright

      Are you sick of seeing ISIS behead people yet? Sick of seeing them stone people, and destroy historical sites? Sick of seeing people set on fire? How about your favorite TV shows??? And what’s the climate control set on??? Have you seen the latest meme???? Want to talk stupid????? dumbass.

      • Telast

        Max, stay relevant. ISIS is not in Kansas. Banning Mockingbird will not keep them at bay.

      • Max Wright

        YOU stay relevant and try to keep up! Holy crap! Do I need to break it down for you????

      • Telast

        YES, you need to tell me why banning To Kill a Mockingbird will keep ISIS at bay. The podium is yours.

      • Max Wright

        I didn’t say anything about banning “Mockingbird.” I said, we have a lot more serious problems in this world than some nut job in Kansas. But most Americans are too stupid to care or even know about them. They are more concerned with what’s going on with American Idol than what’s going on in Africa. Cthulhu is so SICK of random Republicans but apparently doesn’t care at all about Jihadists… even if they are in Texas. “Just keep the AC on, and don’t mess with my shows… and hey I am SO SICK of non-issues with wacky republicans!!!!” Please…

        You’ve heard of Islamophobia??? How about Republican-phobia? Or Concervative-phobia???? What about all the hate speech and double standards directed at christians and conservatives, compared to muslims? I’m an outspoken agnostic and I frequently speak against all organized religions and even I can see the double standard liberals have between accepting Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” but then condemning the “Draw Mohammad” event as “islamophobic” and taunting Muslims.

        I doubt this stupid republican’s bill will make it out of committee. If it does, I seriously doubt it will pass. Common sense says you can’t do that. So why are we worried about a non-issue when we have real issues to worry about???? Why write this article at all when there are such serious problems in the world????????

        Because we just LOVE to hate on republicans, don’t we???????????

        Get it????? Idiot.

      • Telast

        A cretin defends a cretin — what a shock. Get your head out of your ass and see what’s happened to the country thanks to conservative attitudes, unless you’re afraid to go out, which given that cartoon version of yourself, who’d be surprised. You are yelling into the wind, fat-boy.

  • Pilcher-Cook is in good company these days – ISIS!

  • D Lemon

    Tealiban and Taliban – all the same thing.

  • Mike Rubin

    No surprises here, just more evidence of relentless rightwing sexual pathology. We see it everywhere that cultural rightwingers worship and legislate; in their attacks on masturbation, sex ed, contraception, “sodomy,” pornography, sex for the sake of orgasms and not conception, gay sex and marriage, and abortion; and we read the endless comments on the Internet about “keeping your legs together” and “I shouldn’t have to pay for your fun.” I am sure that “harmful” in other hands could cover a multitude of sins – rscism, totalitarianism, phony Christian – but, let’s not kid ourselves: Every one of us knows what this is about. God forbid that kids should get the idea that icky sex is good for anything other than procreation, and these people who hate the very idea of sexual pleasure in marriage or outside of it, are going to continue to work hard to ensure that no one has any.

  • Pamela McLean

    I want to criminalize people who want to criminalize books.

  • Rhonda Pope Maddux

    Oh no, they are not. I guess they want to really start a new civil war in this country. I am so glad I came to my senses and let that association. These are not rational or safe people, and they certainly don’t need to be in any kind of power. They must believe every normal, regular citizen is some kind of gullible.

  • Ronald Woolever

    Fair is fair. If you are going to ban harmful books the bible has to be the first to go, followed by the Koran and the Talmud. When it comes to harming young minds there is nothing that compares to these three collections of falsehoods.

    • gingerailtoo

      Yes…I agree…these horiffic ancient books cause more hate and miconceptions and when mentally ill, unstable or angry people get a hold of it or by someone who indoctrinates them with it…watch out!!!

  • Rhena

    Just tell the kids they are forbidden to read these books. More will read them than if they were assigned.

  • This is what you get when you elect a troglodyte to your legislature.

  • Nannette Peck

    0k it is Kansas and I doubt reading is much of a priority, or a.skill. This woman is either dull-witted or sees Satan behind every corner.

    • gingerailtoo

      The problem is…once one community adds this type of ruling…it starts to spread from town to town…city to city…
      And so on….like mold….

  • Allan Murphy

    stop the hate !!!!!!!!!

  • Allan Murphy

    take a hold of your self

    • shootmyownfood

      I did, and I feel marvelous. *squeeze squeeze*

  • Allan Murphy

    pray my son for not one is sin free Amen !

  • PitbullsAreLovable

    Well at least she did ONE thing right! Banning Twilight!

  • Jim Tuggle

    Mary Pilcher Cook is nothing more or less than another of those who think they must be the arbiters of how we should think and live. My question is simple: how the hell do people like this keep being elected?

  • They should ban the bible then, it has caused more harm than any other book with 10% of all world atrocities caused by Christianity.

  • nehpets123154

    If I can recall didn’t a political party in Germany,do the same thing during the 1920’s or 1930’s ???????????

  • Why do these nutcase not understand that Americans aren’t supposed to censor information and that book banning is FASCIST! How is a society to survive when such a large swath of its people are so poorly educated in American values?

  • David Lean

    “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.” ~ Heinrich Heine

  • Altreg01

    We see how well it worked for the Duggars

  • Susan Autry

    If your morals and god can’t exist with or needs protection from a book, a tv show, another person’s thoughts…you’re fucking weak and your god is dead.
    Crawl your ass into a cave and stay there!