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Delegate sues to block Barnes & Noble from selling 'obscene' books to minors

Delegate Tim Anderson filed a suit to block Barnes & Noble from selling books to children without parental consent. He also doesn't want them in VB schools.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The battle over what books should be allowed in classrooms is back in Virginia Beach, and the national bookstore chain Barnes & Noble is also facing a lawsuit.

“It’s extremely vulgar. It’s extremely obscene." That’s how Republican Delegate Tim Anderson describes the content of books, “Gender Queer” and “A Court of Mist and Fury.” 

Anderson filed a suit asking a Circuit Court judge to stop Barnes & Noble from selling the books to minors without parental consent.

Anderson said the books are too obscene for children.

“Basically... they’re adult books, they have adult content, they’re not appropriate for minors, and minors shouldn’t have access to them, just like an R-rated movie," Anderson said. "A minor can’t walk into an R-rated movie in a movie theater without their parent’s consent, [and] kids shouldn’t have access to extremely sexual material without their parent’s consent.” 

Anderson filed the lawsuit on behalf of his client Tommy Altman, a conservative who is running for Congress. He also wants Virginia Beach City Public School leaders to pull the books from their libraries. 

Virginia Beach City Public School leaders already removed "Gender Queer" after reviewing its contents.

“We’re just saying listen, this is too sexual, this is too graphic for children to read without their [parents] having any say," Anderson said. "A sixth-grader can walk into the Lynnhaven Middle School library, get the book ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ and have total access to this extreme sexual content without their parents having any say." 

This is the latest effort in an ongoing national conversation over what books should and shouldn’t be allowed in schools.

But Anderson said he doesn’t want anyone to label this move a “book ban." Echoing a major talking point of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s political campaign, Anderson said this is about parent choice. 

“It’s not about banning books, it’s not about burning books. It’s just saying books that are super sexual, super explicit. Parents [should] have consent before the children have access to them," Anderson said. “What we’re asking the court to do is basically while this case is moving forward, those who are distributing the books to minors - the VB public school system, Barnes & Noble - that they are restricted from doing so.” 

A Virginia Beach Circuit Court judge ruled last week that the books had probable cause to meet the court’s definition of obscene.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Barnes & Noble said: “As booksellers, we carry thousands of books whose subject matter some may find offensive. We live in a diverse society, and that diversity of opinion is reflected in the books we carry on our shelves that cater to the wide range of interests of our customers. We ask that our customers respect our responsibility to offer this breadth of reading materials, and respect also that, while they chose not to purchase many of these themselves, they may be of interest to others.”

Virginia Beach City Public Schools has not returned a request for comment, just yet.

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