Pedophilia Book Draws Fire from Minnesota Lawmaker

July 7, 2008 - 7:03 PM

( - A Minnesota lawmaker is speaking out against a recently released book about child sex, and is even calling on its publisher to halt production of it.

Minnesota House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty (R-Eagan) is demanding that University of Minnesota Press, the publisher of Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, halt publication of the book "immediately," because of what he calls an endorsement of sexual relations between adults and children.

In particular, Pawlenty is targeting the University of Minnesota, of which the publishing house is part, because the school is state-funded.

"The [University of Minnesota's] role in publishing this kind of trash is very troubling, he said in a statement. "We deserve to know why the name of one of our most respected institutions is being associated with this endorsement of child molestation."

The book, which has drawn criticism in many conservative quarters, argues that America should rethink the way children's sexuality is thought of.

In her introduction, author Judith Levine says: "In America today, it is nearly impossible to publish a book that says children and teen-agers can have sexual pleasure and be safe too."

Levine goes on to say that sexual education provided to children and teen-agers is often inadequate, and contributes to misguided sexual development as kids mature.

The author argues that the "politics of fear" has contributed to the mis-education of children on sexual matters, despite a society that routinely uses sex in advertisements and entertainment.

In one of the more controversial parts of the book, Levine writes that the Dutch age-of-consent law, which permits sex between adult and children as young as 12, is a good model. And in one of her recent interviews, she said that sex between a priest and a minor could "conceivably" be positive.

Levine said Thursday that her goal was to encourage America to rethink how children are to be taught about sex.

"My book is an effort to open up realistic conversations among parents, policy makers, teachers and young people about children and teen sexuality," she said.

And when asked about accusations that the book is an endorsement of child molestation, Levine said the accusation "is a ludicrous statement and anyone with half a brain would know that the reputable and extremely well-respected University of Minnesota Press would never print such a book."

However, Pawlenty said with the current controversy in the Roman Catholic Church dealing with sexual abuse of minors by priests, now is not the time to print such a book.

"In recent weeks, the headlines have been filled with the stories of victims sexually abused as children," he said. "This kind of disgusting victimization of children is intolerable and the state should have no part in it.

"The University should put a halt to this book immediately," Pawlenty said.

The book's publisher says it did its homework in deciding to publish the book, and believes it to be a legitimate scholarly publication.

An official with the publisher said knowing the volatile nature of the book increased efforts to ensure the suitability of printing it.

"Because we are a scholarly press, we are very rigorous in our process of evaluating a book for publication, and we have peer reviews that occur and experts in the field that review all of our books," said Kathryn Grimes, spokesperson for the University of Minnesota Press.

"In the case of this book, because of the sensitive nature of it, we had it reviewed by twice the number of scholars than would normally usually have," Grimes said.

But Pawlenty claims the University of Minnesota, which is publicly funded, should have no dealings with publishing what he refers to as "trash."

"There is such a difference between the freedom of speech and state-sanctioned support for illegal, indecent, harmful activity such as molesting children," said Pawlenty. "I support academic freedom, but I also believe in academic responsibility and protecting kids."

Grimes said that state funds make up a limited percentage of the publishing house's income, and should have no effect on decision-making there.

"Our funding is really nominal in terms of public dollars we receive. It's less than six percent of our operating budget," she said. "We are self-sustaining, though we are not-for-profit.

"While I understand that on the surface it might appear that that would be the nature of concern that people have, we are editorially independent of the university," Grimes said.

The book's author says that Pawlenty's criticism is nothing more than "attempted censorship."

"People like Mr. Pawlenty, as far as I can tell, would like to shutdown that conversation and all conversations he doesn't like," Levine said. "The last time I looked, we still had a Constitution, and a First Amendment, that I imagine the House Majority Leader of the State of Minnesota has pledged to uphold."

She said the book is due is currently available on-line now and is due in store in the upcoming weeks.

E-mail a news tip to Jason Pierce.

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