July/August 2023 Church & State Magazine - July/August 2023

Eleven people filed more than 1,000 challenges to books, study shows


An analysis undertaken by The Washington Post in June found that a mere 11 people were responsible for the majority of nearly 1,000 challenges lodged against books in public schools in 37 states.

To conduct the study, The Post requested copies of all book challenges filed during the 2021-2022 school year in 153 public school districts examined by Tasslyn Magnusson, a researcher who works with PEN America, a free-speech advocacy group. 

“A stated wish to shield children from sexual content is the main factor animating attempts to remove LGBTQ books,” The Post found. The second most common reason cited for pulling LGBTQ+ texts was “an explicit desire to prevent children from reading about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary and queer lives.”

In one case, Cindy Martin, a parent in Forsyth County, Ga., requested that three books be removed, among them a title about a gay hockey player. Martin urged school officials to “remove all copies and burn it.” 

Martin told the newspaper, “It has no place in the school system. It really has no place in society. I am a believer in Jesus Christ, and I feel he has put this passion in me to protect children.”

The Post pointed to data from the American Library Association indicating that LGBTQ+-themed books accounted for 1% to 3% of book challenges in schools from 2000 to 2010. By 2018, the number rose to 16%. In 2022, it was 45.5%.

The analysis found that in 62% of the challenges involving LGBTQ+-themed books, complaints were made about sexual content. But in 37% of the challenges, people complained simply because the books featured LGBTQ+ characters or themes.

The study also found that 8% of the complaints filed against LGBTQ+ books argued that the titles would “groom” children into adopting LGBTQ+ identities. 

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