Christians Use ’Banned Book Week’ to Promote Including Anti-Gay Books in School Libraries

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Oct 3, 2008

Conservative Christians joined libraries for Banned Book Week, and promoted books they claim libraries have effectively banned... many of them anti-gay titles.

The Washington Post reported in an Oct. 3 article that Conservative Christians gathered together in Fairfax County with a display of books in order to impart to the public, during a week that focuses on campaigns to remove books from library shelves, the claim that some books they would like to see libraries carrying have been neglected.

Among the Christians were a group of students wearing T-shirts bearing the message, "Closing Books Shuts Out Ideas," the article said.

But the books in question were titles that attacked gays and gay families, such as Someone I Love is Gay and Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting.

The display was prompted, the Christians said, when efforts orchestrated by the anti-gay, Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family to donate books with anti-gay themes was met with a lack of success.

Someone I Love is Gay advises readers that gay people can be helped because being gay is not "a hopeless condition."

Focus on the Family is the parent organization of Love Won Out, an "ex-gay" group that was in the news recently after a workshop the group put on in Anchorage, Alaska was mentioned in the bulletin of Wasilla Bible Church, which vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attends with her family.

The initiative was said to be an attempt to balance out library collection in schools that are heavy on GLBT -friendly literature.

Librarians said they did not accept the titles because the books did not live up to the standards of the school system's library collections.

Criteria for accepting books into the school system's library include a provision that titles for inclusion should have received at least two positive reviews from journals respected by the library profession.

Said a West Springfield High School senior, 17-year-old Elizabeth Bognanno, "We put ourselves out there [with the result that we] got rejected."

Added Bognanno, "Censoring books is not a good thing.

"We believe our personal rights have been violated."

The appearance of Conservative Christians with their own take on Banned Book Week follows a push from the anti-gay Web site Americans for Truth About Homosexuality to get its readers to petition local libraries to include books that deny that homosexuality is innate, or that promote "conversion" of gays to straights.

As reported earlier by EDGE, Americans for Truth had published a sample letter and a list of books for Christians to use in attempting to stock their local libraries with anti-gay titles.

The sample letter to librarians contained the sentence, "Every day parents of gay children search for answers to their children's condition only to be given the same information: 'deal with it' or 'they are born that way'."

The passage continued, "Neither of these are satisfactory options for the concerned parent."

Added the sample letter, "In addition to the numerous homosexual books which appears on your library system, your library needs to provide ex-gay books to everyone seeking it."

The sample letter listed the titles of 15 "ex-gay books," including several titles that used the language of criminality or pathology, such as My Genes Made Me Do It: A Scientific look at Homosexuality, by Dr. Neil and Briar Whitehead; The Battle for Normality, by Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg, Ph.D.; and Healing Homosexuality: Case Stories, by Joseph Nicolosi.

The Post article quoted Americans for Truth About Homosexuality's president, Peter LaBarbera, as saying that the presence of library books accepting of gays "seems to be something that is going to be very difficult to change."

Added LaBarbera, "Instead let's expand the selection to get both sides in the library."

Reputable mental health professionals have cautioned that so-called "ex-gay" approaches to "curing" homosexuality may do more harm than good.

In the case of the books on offer to libraries by Christian conservatives targeting gays, Fairfax school system coordinator of library information services Susan Thornily was cited as saying that none of the titles the students offered to donate met the criteria for accessioning new books into the libraries' holdings.

Thornily also referenced concerns voiced by librarians that the books offered by the religious conservatives were based on anti-gay interpretations of Biblical passages, but did not include much in the way of science, the article reported.

Thornily said, "It all goes back to the books and the publishers and the presentation and the research," citing the provenance of many of the books offered by the Christians: small, religiously-based publishers.

Moreover, the books offered to the library might cause GLBT students to "feel inferior," Thornily said.

However, Thornily has volunteered to put in some time toward identifying books that promote the Christian conservative view while still living up to the standards expected of books added to the libraries' collections, the article said.

Declining to accept the books offered by anti-gay Christians fits in with library practice: Thornily was cited as saying that the school system had also refused books that "target [other] minority groups" such as non-whites.

The article noted that on the other side of the debate, Banned Book Week--an American Library Association promotion that "celebrates the freedom to read"--compiles a list of "challenged" books, as well as of books banned outright.

As reported by EDGE, the American Library Association's list of banned and challenged books showed that for a second consecutive year, a children's book about a pair of gay penguins raising an adopted chick--And Tango Makes Three, which is based on a true story--topped the list.

There are several cases of penguins in zoos pairing up as same-sex couples, going through courtships rituals and, when given an egg to nurture, caring for the egg and the hatchling just as mixed-gender couples do. One famous example of these same-sex penguin families is Harry and Pepper, two penguins who live at the San Francisco zoo.

In 2005, Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany realized that three penguin couples were actually gay males after doing DNA tests and observing one of the couples attempting to foster a rock as though it were an egg.

But it's the tale of Roy and Silo, two male penguins who live in New York, at the Central Park Zoo, and who were given an egg to nurture and then raised the result, a chick named Tango, that became the most famous story of all" story of Roy, Silo, and their daughter Tango was written up as a children's book.

To some, however, that story has become infamous: the tale of Tango and her two gay dads, as related in the book And Tango Makes Three, has drawn the wrath of human beings who object to their own offspring learning about certain aspects of the birds (and the bees).

And Tango Makes Three is a children's book about diversity and different family structures written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, and published three years ago.

It didn't take long for the story of a penguin and her two gay dads to become a favorite target for those looking to excise it from the library shelves. As the Washington Post reported, a parent in Loudoun Country attempted to get the book banned from schools there.

Focus on the Family has adopted an innocuous name for its push to get anti-gay books that do not meet basic standards into school libraries, calling it "True Tolerance."

Focus on the Family education analyst, Candi Cushman, was at the Fairfax event, having taken a flight from Colorado, where the organization is based. Cushman was quoted as saying that, "more and more... homosexuality is being promoted in schools."

Added Cushman, "The word tolerance is often used, but a faith-based viewpoint is belittled or ridiculed."

Though the Post said the idea for the push in Fairfax County came from a local teen, Focus on the Family compiled the list of books to try to get on the shelves, and then made them available for donation.

The Post noted that the students who were on hand to defend the idea of including the titles in the school libraries did not claim to have read those books.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • , 2008-10-04 07:39:18

    I am sorry but this is NOT censorship.I’m usually not one for censorship but I am for standards. And I have a hard time believing that anything put out about the lgbt community by the anti-gay industry or their allies belong in a public library without extreme scrutiny on its credibility.The anti-gay industry has a track record of relying bad research (Paul Cameron) or distorting legitimate research (i.e. Elizabeth Saewyc, Robert Spitzer, Patrick Letellier, Robert Garafalo, Carol Gilligan, Lisa Waldner, Joanne Hall, Francis Collins, etc. )And this track record of lies should not be ignored simply because the anti-gay industry was able to find enough guillible students and their parents to try and play a game of semantics.I don’t think a book should be included in a library’s selection simply because a group holds a press conference and sidesteps the issues of accuracy by appealing to emotions and religious beliefsWhen choosing books, libraries should always adhere to high standards and the highest of all of these are veracity, or truth.

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