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West Virginia Association of Museums: Bill on obscene matter too subjective

By Matt Harvey, The Exponent Telegram

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Association of Museums has publicly opposed a bill that could open up schools, museums and public libraries to criminal prosecution for distributing obscene materials to minors. The association cites language in the bill that it says is too broad.

House Bill 4654 would “remove schools, museums and public libraries from the exemption which protects these types of entities from prosecution for distribution and display to minors of an obscene matter,” according to a note on the bill text.

The bill has passed the House of Delegates and been sent to the state Senate.

The West Virginia Association of Museums contests part of the definition of obscene matter that’s already on the books for the article (61-8A-1) in state code involving “preparation, distribution or exhibition of obscene matter to minors.”

The Association of Museums considers this section — 61-8A-1(k)(3) — vague and too broad: “‘Obscene matter’ means matters that: … A reasonable person would find, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

“WVAM is not opposed to protecting children from potentially harmful materials or ensuring that our museums, libraries and schools are safe spaces,” the association wrote in a Sunday afternoon news release.

“We are opposed to a change in the code that endangers the community of library and museum professionals while doing their jobs in these institutions,” the association wrote.

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