Religious Minorities

Congressman Proposes ‘Public’ Libraries Run By Churches

  Rob Boston

In a country regularly buffeted by extremist ideas from Christian Nationalists (Ban drag shows! Criminalize the use of abortion pills! Make life as unpleasant as possible for transgender people!) U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) has just unleashed a doozy: replace our public libraries with “Christianized” versions.

In a tweet issued last week, Higgins wrote, “Over time, American communities will build beautiful, church owned public-access libraries. I’m going to help these churches get funding. We will change the whole public library paradigm. The libraries regular Americans recall are gone. They’ve become liberal grooming centers.”

Public Libraries Are Amazing Resources

While it’s hard to know where to start responding to something this daft, here are a few things to keep in mind: First, public libraries are not “grooming centers,” they are amazing community resources and vital sources of information. For many people, they’re a lifeline.

Secondly, “church-owned public-access libraries” sounds like something from a dystopian novel. And I think we can safely assume that the churches Higgins wants to run these libraries would not be liberal or moderate. He’d like his fundamentalist pals to screen library materials and remove anything they deem “offensive.” I’m guessing that will be a pretty small collection – copies of the Bible (King James Version, of course), a few tomes by Sean Hannity and maybe a dog-earned copy of Ben-Hur (but not the 1959 movie – remember, it’s, um, problematic for fundamentalists.)

Finally, just imagine your tax dollars being diverted to these alleged “libraries” – as if school vouchers weren’t bad enough!

My friend Steve Benen of “The Maddow Blog” put it well: “To the extent that reality matters, houses of worship are already free to create libraries if they want to, and they’re welcome to open the facilities to the public. Of course, because the United States honors the separation of church and state, those church libraries are privately financed by voluntary contributions, though Higgins apparently has a new ‘paradigm’ in mind.”

Elevating Ingorance

The “paradigm” Higgins and his allies are suggesting is one that’s increasingly popular in Christian Nationalist circles: If they don’t like certain types of information, they’ll do all they can to choke off access to it. They’ll throw mud at the hard-working men and women who staff our public libraries and public schools. They’ll spread hysteria and lies.

Their goal is to elevate ignorance over knowledge, fear over curiosity and conformity over dissent.

Americans of goodwill – people who value the right to ask questions, learn, read and explore the world around us – need to rise up now to this nonsense and make it clear we’ve had enough.

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