During a recent meeting, two members of the Spotsylvania, Va., County School Board advocated burning books they considered offensive.
The board members, Rabih Abuismail and Kirk Twigg, said during a public meeting Nov. 8 that they don’t just want books like this banned – they literally want to see them set on fire.
“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” Abuismail said. Twigg added that he’d like to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”
Abuismail added that education officials “would rather have our kids reading gay pornography than about Christ.”
The two said they were motivated to act after learning that school libraries contained books that explore LGBTQ themes. The board later voted unanimously to remove all books that contain “sexually explicit” materials from school libraries.
The move, which received national attention, was widely criticized, and a week later, residents packed a school board meeting to express their concerns. The board voted 5-2 to rescind the demand to remove the books. Abusimail and Twigg were the only dissenters.
Efforts to remove books from school libraries are under way in other states.
In Goddard, Kan., education officials pulled 29 books from circulation after a parent complaint about language in one of them. Among the titles removed were several novels, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. “Fences,” an award-winning play by August Wilson, was also pulled, as was They Called Themselves the K.K.K., a nonfiction history of the racist hate group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has issued an executive order requiring education officials to ferret out books containing “obscene content.” State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Tarrant County) would go further and pull any book that is judged to “contain material that might make students feel discomfort, 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.” His hit list includes 850 books.
AU condemned the censorship wave on its “Wall of Separation” blog.
“People who are afraid of certain ideas – or, more accurately, the thinking that exposure to such ideas can spark – will try to squelch them,” observed AU’s Rob Boston. “The first step is to demonize books by labeling them ‘obscene,’ ‘filthy,’ ‘anti-Christian,’ etc. The second step is a bonfire, metaphorical or literal. The final step is ignorance. People who do these things often claim that they are protecting young people. They’re not. The only thing they are protecting is a student’s ‘right’ to remain unchallenged, uninspired and, ultimately, uneducated.”