February 2020 Church & State Magazine | Editorial

Last year, two groups in southern Maryland – Southern Maryland Area Secular Humanists (SMASH) and PFLAG of Leonardtown – arranged to use a room at a local public library for a drag-queen story hour.

 The event, during which drag queens read stories to children and engaged in activities with them, was privately sponsored and not an official library program. SMASH and PFLAG, both of which are based in St. Mary’s County, were only doing what plenty of other community groups do: using publicly available space.

Nonetheless, some religious zeal­ots in the area got incensed over the event. They whipped up so much hysteria that a local man, Ashley Morgan, tried to disrupt it. Attendees reported that Morgan sprinted into the room yelling, “Don’t believe the lies!” He knocked over several chairs and frightened children before being subdued by the police.

In court recently, Morgan tried to defend his actions.

“Although I didn’t anticipate do­ing what I did, I did it to help those kids and even everybody in that room. The parents. The drag queens. It was for their sakes,” he said. “And the community. However, I apologize for scaring those kids. I did not plan on doing that that day.”

How Morgan thought his intolerance was helping anyone is a mystery. A judge also didn’t buy it, sentencing Morgan to 180 days in jail (with all but 10 days suspended) and three years of probation.

Sadly, the St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners has voted to pull nearly $2,500 from the library’s budget to pay for the cost of police security that day. But security would not have been necessary if Morgan and the Christian nationalists who think like him had simply minded their own business. The library shouldn’t be punished for doing what it’s required to do – open its doors to community organizations.

This incident is a reminder of the lengths some Religious Right zealots will go to quash the rights of those who fail to fit into their narrow worldview. Their theocratic goals are dangerous, and must be resisted by all legal and moral means.