April 2018 Church & State Magazine - April 2018

Conservative Activists Petition Iowa Library To Ban LGBTQ Books

  Liz Hayes

Several hundred conservatives in an Iowa town are petitioning the Orange City Public Library to either ban books with LGBTQ content or label and segregate the volumes from the rest of the library’s collection.

The petition drive was sparked by a since-rescinded complaint about a single book and now is being spearheaded by the Sioux County Conservatives, a political group formed 18 months ago to mobilize conservatives, according to the Des Moines Register. As of late February, the group had collected more than 300 signatures, most of them online.

“[The books] are targeting pre-K children to promote a behavior that is harmful to human beings,” Jacob Hall, the group’s spokesman, told the newspaper. “It is clear there is an agenda there.”

A flyer claiming the library was providing “homosexual/transgender promoting materials” to children singled out the children’s or young-adult books Two Boys Kissing (a National Book Award finalist), Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress and This Day In June, all of which have LGBTQ storylines.

During a Feb. 20 public hearing, the Rev. Sacha Walicord of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church told the Library Board of Trustees that LBGTQ books are “pushing an agenda” that is counter to those in the faith community: “We won’t roll over. We will stand up and we will fight,” he said, according to the Register.

Library Director Amanda Vazquez countered that libraries are meant to be spaces promoting inclusivity, remarking, “As a public library, we try to serve the needs of a diverse community.”

Of the library’s 64,000 materials, 168 books – less than 1 percent – were identified as having LGBTQ content.

In an editorial, the Register rejected the petitioners’ idea that LGBTQ-related books should be banned or segregated.

“Public libraries must serve everyone: black and white, rich and poor, religious and atheist. And yes, gay and straight,” the newspaper wrote on Feb. 25. “And these materials shouldn’t be stuck on their own shelf, as some in Orange City are arguing. Patrons – particularly questioning teens – should have their privacy protected and should be able to check out materials without judgment.”

The library’s board had not acted on the petition at Church & State’s press time. A decision to remove the books would seem to violate the library’s stated policy: “The library recognizes that any given item may offend any one person, but because the library follows accepted principles of intellectual freedom, it will not remove specific titles solely because individuals or groups may find them objectionable.”

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