Ohio State U. Librarian: Christian Beliefs Got Me Ousted!

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday July 22, 2010

A man who left his job as a librarian with Ohio State University lost his case in a federal suit alleging that the school was "hostile" to Christians because of its promotion of what the suit called "the homosexual lifestyle," reported a June 9 Fox News Radio report.

Former OSU librarian Scott Savage claimed that he was the victim of a campaign to smear him both personally and professionally because he recommended several conservative titles for a reading list in 2006, including The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom, by David Kupelian. That book is sold online at anti-gay religious sites such as WorldNetDaily, where Kupelian serves as managing editor. Savage indicated that he had found other titles on the mandatory reading list for incoming freshmen to be too "liberal," and he was seeking to balance out the selections.

The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman, noted in his ruling that Kupelian's book--which claims that there is a systematic effort underway to demolish Judeo-Christian morality--refers to sexual intimacy between consenting adults of the same gender as "aberrant."

The university's faculty reacted strongly to the recommendations, with one gay professor, JF Buckley, writing a letter to Savage that was also emailed to the faculty at large. In his missive, Buckley told Savage how the recommendation of the book caused him distress. "You have made me fearful and uneasy being a gay man on this campus," wrote Buckley. "I no longer feel safe doing my job. I am being harassed."

In his lawsuit, however, Savage claimed to have been the victim of harassment, saying that he was attacked continually for more than a year and accused of harassing faculty members, reported a June 9 article at local newspaper the Columbus Dispatch. It was due to the ongoing alleged attacks that Savage decided to leave his job.

In a letter to the Columbus Dispatch published May 13, 2006, Savage decried the objections that had been raised to his recommendations, writing, "Rather than being examples of how I am 'provoking controversy,' these incidents underline the growing intolerance toward our constitutional rights on many campuses."

Bertelsman issued his ruling on June 7, and noted that though some faculty members had expressed doubt about Savage's professional ability and his judgment, the dean was behind Savage, as was his supervisor. The university had not created a hostile work environment for Savage; Bertelsman noted that the faculty members in question were not authorized to hire or fire the librarian, and pointed out that though "Savage felt wounded by the criticism of several faculty members and unnerved by their challenge to his professionalism," that in itself did not "create an objectively 'intolerable' working environment, given that he had the strong support of his immediate supervisor and no indication from the dean that his job was in jeopardy."

Added the ruling, "There is thus no objective evidence that Savage's employer took any action intended to force him out of his job," which Savage left of his own accord.

Anti-gay religious site WorldNetDaily also reported on the ruling, referring to Kupelian's book as a "culture war classic" and claiming that it was a "bestseller."

WorldNetDaily referred to emails circulated among the faculty who were offended at the book's recommendation by Savage, with some correspondence allegedly referring to Savage as a "virulent parasite" and conversation threads among the faculty discussing ways to persuade Savage to the faculty members' point of view, have him disciplined, or have him removed as a librarian. Another email from Buckley allegedly contained harsh language, demanding to know "What the Goddamn fucking hell kind of homophobic shit is this?"

The article said that Savage plans to appeal the case.

Pro- and anti-gay books are a hot-button topic when it comes to school libraries, whether at the elementary, high school, or college level. In May, a New Jersey school board voted to ban a gay-themed book from a high school library following a complaint from a local chapter of Glenn Beck's 9.12 Project, a conservative group that asks visitors to its website to "Help us restore America."

The school in question is in Mount Holly, a town located in Burlington County, New Jersey. 9.12 members attended a March 18 meeting and demanded that three books be taken out of the high school's library. All three dealt with issues of human sexuality, and included Amy Sonnie's 2000 book Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, which is now out of print.

A second book was The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities, a collection from 2006 of forty selections submitted by GLBT youths ages 13-23, and edited by David Levithan and Billy Merrell. That book earned a starred review from Booklist, which called the collection "invaluable" and asserted that the books was "Insightful, extraordinarily well written, and emotionally mature," with "the selections offer[ing] compelling, dramatic evidence that what is important is not what we are but who we are."

A third book, Love & Sex: 10 Stories of Truth, is an anthology from 2001 in which writers of young adult fiction contributed original short stories about GLBT and straight youths coming to terms with their maturing emotional and romantic lives. A Publisher's Weekly review called the collection "markedly frank," and noted that editor Michael Cart had sought to navigate a middle ground between censoriousness and overt, gratuitous sexual content.

The school board reviewed the three titles and consulted with their legal counsel. Upon learning that under the law they would be able to censor books based on "obscenity," but not political speech, the board voted to ban Revolutionary Voices. One school board member, Jesse Adams, told the Inquirer, "We felt, from an obscenity perspective, there were some things our children didn't need to see" in that volume. Added Adams, "We don't allow our children to curse in school, and we don't think this is something we should be promoting in the school."

But at a subsequent school board meeting, most of those in attendance condemned the action. Said one parent, Eileen Cramer, who herself had attended the high school, "It's a parent's responsibility to monitor what their children are reading, not to tell other children what they can and cannot read."

But 9.12 member Beverly Marinelli had a different perspective, wondering why the library had added the books to its collection in the first place. "Where is the oversight on this?" she demanded of those in attendance.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. 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.