Public libraries across the country are dealing with a wave of censorship attempts, often spearheaded by Christian nationalists who are determined to purge materials they disagree with.
Increasingly, people who support access to information and the freedom to learn are fighting back. Llano County, Texas, is the most recent example.
To set the stage: Last year, state Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) issued a list of 850 books he considered objectionable that were available in public school libraries. Krause sent the list to officials at the Texas Education Agency; he demanded the removal of any book that could cause students “guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
The Krause crusade rebounded in Llano County, which, The Washington Post reported, “has been in an uproar over its libraries since last fall, when a group of conservative Christians and members of the local tea party chapter began emailing county officials, lambasting what they called the ‘filth’ in the public libraries.”
The Post reported that most of the books targeted deal with LGBTQ themes, but others focus on sex education, history and race. Some of the titles singled out are award winners and classics. Among them is In the Night Kitchen by popular children’s author Maurice Sendak.
Reported The Post, “Officials subsequently dissolved the library board and replaced it with many of [far-right] activists, closed the meetings to the public, cut off access to e-books and fired a librarian who pushed back against the censorship.”
Bonnie Wallace, the vice chair of the library board, found 60 books from Krause’s list that were available in the county’s three public libraries. She sent the list to County Judge Ron Cunningham, who then directed Amber Milum, director of the country library system, to remove “all books that depict any type of sexual activity or questionable nudity,” reported The Texas Tribune.
In a federal lawsuit, seven county residents assert that local officials “targeted books that conflicted with Defendants’ political and religious views.”
The suit also says, “Public libraries are not places of government indoctrination. They are not places where the people in power can dictate what their citizens are permitted to read about and learn. When government actors target public library books because they disagree with and intend to suppress the ideas contained within them, it jeopardizes the freedoms of everyone.”
Yes, it does – and for Christian nationalists and their allies, that’s the point. They fear knowledge and extol ignorance. Most importantly, their claims of “protecting” children ring hollow. The only thing they’re protecting them from is the freedom to learn, explore and understand the world around them.