Yesterday marked the start of Banned Books Week. This important annual event is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and other organizations to increase awareness about attacks on the freedom to learn – and spur activism to stop them.
This year’s event comes amid a tsunami of challenges to books in public schools and public libraries. “The Wall of Separation” blog has highlighted several of these cases recently, which have a few things in common: Christian Nationalism spurs the challenges, and the titles attacked often feature LGBTQ+ characters and/or themes.
The ALA’s list of the most frequently banned books for 2022, which was released in April, bears this out. Of the 13 books on the list (there was a four-way tie for 10th place), seven were singled out for LGBTQ+ content.
Book banning is a church-state issue
Book banning is definitely a church-state issue. Most of the bans we’ve seen recently come from Christian Nationalists. These people are determined to use their religion to control what children (and often adults) can read, learn about and experience. A strong application of separation of church and state can stop them.
Christian Nationalists sometimes assert that they are the victims, and all they want is for their children to not be exposed to certain ideas. There are at least two responses to that: One is that this expectation is unrealistic. LGBTQ+ people exist. Christian Nationalists may be trying to erase that reality, but public institutions like schools and libraries are under no obligation to help them. The second reason is that book bans take the extremism of Christian Nationalism and impose it on every child. In other words, if you dislike a book in the public library, you have the right to tell your child not to read it. You have absolutely no right to make that decision for other people’s children.
Let Freedom Read!
The theme of Banned Book Weeks 2023 is “Let Freedom Read.” It is an apt one. Christian Nationalists fear knowledge, they fear information and they fear the world as it exists today.
While Christian Nationalists have a right to live in that sorry state of ignorance and fear, we can’t let them drag the rest of us there, too. Banned Books Week is a great time to renew your commitment to intellectual freedom and its protector, separation of church and state.
Here’s a great way to start: Read a banned book.