JoAn Karkos didn’t think her plan all the way through. By removing two controversial sex-ed books from the Auburn and Lewiston public libraries, she’s only drawn more attention to them.

But unintended consequences are, after all, the offspring of half-baked ideas.

Karkos removed “It’s Perfectly Normal” from the two libraries under the reasoning of protecting vulnerable young minds from the book’s unvarnished sexual lessons: masturbation, sexually transmitted diseases, intercourse, basic human anatomy. Karkos, and others who share her views, deride the book as pornographic.

Almost as many laud the book’s content. Parenting guru T. Berry Brazelton is one, for example. The book’s cover, in fact, features a plaudit from a most mainstream source: Ann Landers, hardly a pornographer’s advocate.

The content is, obviously, open to interpretation and just as obviously, Karkos has made her opinion known. “I was horrified that ‘It’s Perfectly Normal’ was in existence, and horrified that it was in my local library,” she told the Lewiston Public Library’s Board of Trustees.

Having strong opinions about how children should learn about sex, and sexual issues, is a parental prerogative. It’s clearly in Karkos’ purview to decide, if she has children, to instruct them – or not instruct them – in sexual matters, in whatever way she sees fit.

She has the same right not to enroll her children in schools that offer sexual education, another moral battleground, but one that’s muted. A vast majority of Americans support sex-ed in public schools, according to a 2004 study by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.

Debate does exist on what facets should be taught, though. Yet plummeting pregnancy rates among teens in Maine, and nationwide, seem to indicate sex-ed is also proving its worth.

What Karkos is powerless to decide, however, is how other parents and kids learn about sex. Her vociferous opinions on morality don’t give her the right to censor public library shelves in Lewiston-Auburn.

No one citizen has this right. This strikes the core of our democratic society, and our shared rights under the First Amendment. We don’t have to like, or respect, the opinions or depictions that circulate around us.

But we’ll fight to the bone for the right of any person, or organization, to preserve them.

This is secular reasoning, admittedly, for an issue with religous underpinnings. (A Catholic advocacy group made Karkos aware of “It’s Perfectly Normal.)

But separation of church and state is an American tenet, too.

Then there is the unintended consequence. The book left the Lewiston library fewer than thrice yearly since 2001. Now rising requests have caused the library to order two additional copies, on top of the one that remains missing.

Oops. Though Karkos has made her point, her desired outcome has veered way off course. She needs to take corrective action. There’s only one.

So, excuse us, JoAn?

Bring the books back.


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