Libraries and schools throughout the country are ready once again to observe Banned Books Week. It’s that special time each year when some in the library profession point an accusing finger at parents, especially Christians or conservatives who might dare to question the value or appropriateness of certain materials available to youth. For 25 years since its inception, Banned Books Week has been warning America: “Beware of the ignorance and repression of censors! They will deprive us all of valuable knowledge and freedom.”
Setting aside any danger that the government might ban valuable materials, which is not happening in any community in America, let’s strip away the spin and look at the facts. The supposed dangers are essentially phony. For there are several methods to “ban” a book from a school or library: someone can ask that something already in the library be removed, or, valuable books can be banned from consideration before they ever reach the shelves. This is the dirty little secret behind the bluster and outrage of Banned Books Week: private, library-initiated censorship is a routine practice throughout America.
Library selection committees are systematically purging libraries of any conservative or serious Christian viewpoints and instead, loading the shelves with left-wing propaganda and pornography. This year, the American Library Association is making a special to-do about the “dangers” of objections to “gay-themed books” especially those for youth. While it’s doubtful this is an issue that keeps most Americans awake at night, it’s important to recognize that as controversial social issues go, there is hardly a more hot-button topic, and one would think that all these “free-speech” advocates and defenders of philosophical liberties would be worried about any suppression of viewpoints on this high -profile subject. Don’t the vigilant watchdogs of tolerance seek to protect a “diversity” of thought?
Well, the microcosm of my local library in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, reflects what many are reporting from around the nation: Conservative materials on the issue of homosexuality are disappearing from the collection, or more often, never appearing in the first place. In researching the catalog of the Upper Arlington Public Library, I searched under titles, authors and subjects for books providing a responsible defense of traditional marriage and warning about the risks of homosexual behavior.
I searched under “homosexuality,” “gay and lesbian,” “traditional marriage,” “Christian morality,” “ex-gay,” “ex-homosexual,” and many other phrases. My search yielded four non-fiction books expressing a conservative viewpoint.
But of books, DVDs and videos offering a pro-homosexual view, the smorgasbord is overflowing. There are guides to “gay and lesbian” rights from the American Civil Liberties Union and others. There are books about affirming one’s “gay” children authored by Betty De Generes as well as those with less-stellar offspring. There are books by columnists and activists: Andrew Sullivan, Pat Califia, Kevin Jennings, Evan Wolfson, and Candace Gingrich. There is the pro-homosexual view of the Bible – “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality” – and of course, Mel White, the defender of homosexuals from the “spiritual violence” of Bible-believing Christians.
And time doesn’t even permit me to cover all the many offerings detailing homosexual, bisexual and group sex, nor the selections arguing for more tolerance and understanding of adults having sex with children – “intergenerational intimacy” is the new name for pedophilia.
In the section of the library aimed toward adults, I stopped counting at 100 pro-homosexual books..
And for children and teens? With at least 70 offerings, mostly within the recent genre of “gay teen fiction,” the young people in our community are set. There’s no doubt that any curious child or teen will be able to find ample reading material at the library, all presenting only one admiring side of the issue, sometimes quite graphically.
There are explicit titles kids may need to conceal from parental eyes, such as “Boy Meets Boy” and “Kissing Kate.” For the gender-questioning crowd, there’s “A Boy Named Phyllis” or for smaller kids, “Oliver Button is a Sissy.” There’s the quite graphic novel, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which, according to the ALA, was one of the most challenged books in 2004. And for non-fiction, teens are somehow supposed to benefit from reading books like “In Your Face: Stories from the Lives of Queer Youth,” a book revealing the depressing, chaotic backgrounds of homosexually-attracted youth,. In the thoughtful reader, it provokes obvious cause-effect questions that, like the elephant in the room, the book ignores.
Then, belying anti-bigotry ideals, teens can be indoctrinated by either a print version, a DVD or a video of the play and film “The Laramie Project,” presenting an inaccurate and distorted account of the Matthew Shepard case, including the requisite portrayal of rabid fundamentalists, the kind the left needs to believe caused Shepard’s death. This category includes, of course, all conservatives.
Little children can choose the infamous “Heather Has Two Mommies” or “And Tango Makes Three,” which is supposed to teach children the valuable lesson that if two male penguins in Central Park Zoo can pair up and adopt a baby penguin, same-sex coupling must be OK for humans, too. Only problem is that the real penguin duo inspiring this story has split. “Silo” recently discovered his male attraction to a female penguin, blasting the interspecies analogy to bits. Yet the misleading book remains.
The ALA is terribly concerned that these “gay-themed” books be available for our youth. After all, their standards, adopted by many libraries in this country, urge librarians to “model and promote a non-judgmental attitude toward … and preserve confidentiality in interactions with young adults.” This has a nice ring until one learns three things: the ALA defines “young adults” as ages 12 to 20 – they recommend that no item in a library be off-limits to a child at any age who requests it. Therefore, the obvious meaning of “confidentiality” is that they have a goal of withholding information from parents.
Is there hope that more librarians can come to understand the harmful nature of sexually graphic, violent and dark depressing materials in the hands of our children? That homosexuality is a life-shortening road down which no responsible adult should point any child? That, if they refuse to recognize the fallacy of a pro-homosexual viewpoint, then at the very least, every child, every person who accesses libraries in America should have the option of access to both sides of this issue?
When will library-instigated book banning come out of the closet? Not until we, parents and citizens, make specific requests to add thoughtful pro-family books to balance these collections, if we can’t have the inaccurate and high-risk material removed. We need to also, as a conservative movement, encourage publishers to print more books dealing with this issue, especially for young people.
It’s time for us taxpayers to remind librarians, for those who’ve forgotten, that they report to us.
Linda Harvey is president of Mission America, a pro-family organization which monitors homosexual activism in youth culture.