A legislative push in Tennessee to ban “obscene” books from schools resulted in a surreal hearing on Wednesday, with country music star John Rich arguing that librarians and teachers pose a greater threat to children than actual pedophiles.
Rich is one half of the duo “Big & Rich.” The band’s 2004 hit “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” encourages listeners to “give a dang about nothing” and drink heavily, while celebrating women who “save” horses by instead riding cowboys.
“What’s the difference between a teacher, educator or librarian putting one of these books like you have on the desk of a student, or a guy in a white van pulling up at the edge of school when school lets out and saying, ‘Come on around kids, let me read you this book and show you these pictures?’” Rich asked legislators in Nashville.
“What’s the difference in those two scenarios? There is a difference, by the way: They can run away from the guy in the white van.”
In a follow-up tweet, Rich likened himself to “the firewall between tyranny and freedom” and said his testimony was “going toe to toe with adversaries.”
The measure in question, HB 1944, would prohibit public and charter schools from “making obscene materials or materials harmful to minors” available to students. Notably, the bill does not define what would qualify as “obscene.”
Its sponsor, state Rep. Scott Cepicky (R), introduced the bill in January in a show of support for the McMinn County Board of Education’s decision to ban a book about the Holocaust.
The board banned the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel “Maus” from the eighth-grade curriculum, due to concerns about “objectionable language” and nudity in its cartoon depictions of the Holocaust.