Although the Texas Legislature took steps to protect children during the last session, there is still more that needs to be done.

That was the consensus of speakers and attendees of the Protect Our Children event held this week in Llano.

County officials in Llano were sued for removing explicit books from the children’s section of the library last year.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman ruled in March that the Llano County Library System must return all of the removed books and barred the county from taking any more books off the shelves until the lawsuit ends. 

The county appealed Pitman’s decision to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in June, and both parties are awaiting the court’s decision. 

As Llano County awaits the decision of the court, local conservative activists held an event to raise funds for the costly lawsuit and inform citizens of the “pornography book battle happening throughout Texas and the nation.”

Panelists discussed victories—such as different pieces of legislation signed into law that ban explicit material from school libraries, explicit performances targeting minors, and gender mutilation procedures on children—but noted that the fight must continue. 

“Moving forward, the truth is that while we can identify these different symptoms, we have to be able to stop the social transitioning of children. That’s what has to stop,” said Brady Gray, the President of Texas Family Project. “We can pass bills like Senate Bill 14, and we can ban the physical transitioning of children, but if we can’t stop schools, psychiatrists, psychologists, and children’s hospitals from convincing children that they’re that they’re not in the right body, or convincing children that they’re not made in the image of God that is terrifying.”

Mary Elizabeth Castle, the Director of Government Relations for Texas Values, agreed, saying there was “room for improvement.”

“You need to protect the religious rights of Christian counselors and Christian teachers and I think that’s an area where we haven’t made many gains because we have focused on the very important things and making sure we stop the transition,” said Castle. “But we need to make sure that if you’re a Christian counselor, you’re able to have your business open and available to those children dealing with those issues and the state isn’t stopping you from talking about those things, because there’s already some rulemaking processes in place to where they’re trying to force counselors in the state of Texas to counsel towards those LGBT issues.”

Castle added that a law passed in 2021 to require parents to opt-in to sex education is set to expire in 2024. Legislation to make the requirement permanent was passed through the Senate, but killed in the House.

“Unfortunately, even with [the] efforts of our team and others, we weren’t able to get this law passed to make it permanent. So we’re currently trying to work to get the governor to do something about that is to make sure we can make this a permanent law in Texas, especially before that deadline,” said Castle.

Christin Bentley, State Republican Executive Committeewoman and founder of the Filthy Books Campaign, said she wants to see the legislature remove affirmative defenses for distributing pornography to children and having children perform sexually for an adult. 

“We had 13 bills filed related to those two issues [during] the legislative session, not a single one of them got a hearing in committee in either chamber. And it’s inexcusable, because absolutely, there is no reason to ever give a child pornography. And there is never a reason to have a child perform sexually for an adult.”

“What I want to see more than anything is that we repeal these affirmative defenses, and that you change the definition of harmful materials. And I am committed to driving that legislation in the next session,” she added.

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens