Tennessee Republican state Representative Jerry Sexton is facing heavy criticism after he declared during a debate in the state's House of Representatives he would "burn" library books he found "obscene."
His comments came after he was asked by Democratic state Representative John Ray Clemmons what he plans to do with the books that would be in direct violation of Sexton's proposed amendment to House Bill 2666.
When the bill passed the Tennessee Senate earlier this month, it seemed rather straightforward.
The bill proposed adding members to Tennessee's textbook commission, positions that would empower them to consult school districts and ensure materials under their review are "appropriate for the age and maturity levels" of students.
However, both librarians and parents have pushed back against the legislation after lawmakers introduced an amendment that would require the commission to issue a list of "approved" materials Tennessee schools could provide their students, sparking concerns about much wider censorship.
It was that amendment that informed Clemmons' question to Sexton.
You can watch their exchange in the video below.
"Let's say you take these books out of the library—what are you going to with them?"
"You gonna put 'em on the street? Light 'em on fire? Where are they going?"
Sexton issued the following matter-of-fact response:
"I don't have a clue, but I would burn 'em."
Sexton's admission angered many who accused Republicans of handicapping public education as conservatives have ramped up their campaigns to arbitrarily limit the content teachers can present in their classrooms.
The United States publishing industry alone publishes hundreds of thousands of books per year.
Unit sales of books "now consistently surpass 650 million per year," according to data compiled by Statista.
Thousands of those are books for children and young adults, highlighting the herculean scope of the task ahead for any commission, in Tennessee or otherwise, created for the purpose of regulating reading material in school libraries.
Student protesters have also made clear they do not accept H.B. 2666.
Lindsay Hornick, a junior at Franklin High School in Williamson County, told reporters that "choosing my own literature has made me into a more well-rounded individual." Hornick added that they "would hate to see my education system limited by a board that has almost no diversity."