Miss Mayor says her religious beliefs give her the right to purge LGBTQ-themed books from the library
The books are increasingly criticized in the United States – literally in some cases.
Tennessee pastor Greg Locke of the Global Vision Bible Church staged a mass book burning last week, targeting volumes he considers “demonic.” NBC News reported that during the event, which was streamed live on Facebook, “congregants threw books and other items thought to be associated with ‘witchcraft’ into a huge bonfire in the parking lot of the ‘Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee’.
In the same state, a school board in McMinn County made national headlines after voting last month to remove the graphic novel Mausa story of the Holocaust, from the eighth grade language arts curriculum.
Not to be left out of the action, the mayor of a small town in Mississippi apparently decided that his religious beliefs gave him the right to decide what everyone in town could read at the public library.
Mayor Gene McGee of Ridgeland, a Madison County community of about 24,000, is withholding $110,000 in funding for the county’s library system, the Mississippi Free Press, an online news site, reported.
Tonja Johnson, executive director of county libraries, told the Free Press that she contacted McGee after failing to receive a quarterly payment from the city. What he told her was surprising.
“He explained his opposition to what he called ‘gay materials’ in the library, that it went against his Christian beliefs and that he would not release the money while the materials were there,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who appears to have Job’s patience, told the Free Press that she carefully explained to McGee that the library was not a religious institution and should serve the whole community – but the mayor was insensitive.
McGee is behaving like a Christian nationalist tyrant, but he probably doesn’t even have the power to withhold the funds, which the city’s board of aldermen has already approved. However, it doesn’t seem like the board is in any rush to get him under control.
McGee said he took action because members of the community were complaining about certain books in the library.
” We hold [the money] right now because we found a large number of citizens who complained about the postings of sexual content, whatever you want to call it,” McGee said. “We are only responding to complaints from these citizens, and that is the position we are in.”
Unsurprisingly, the books under fire are LGBTQ-themed. One of them, The Queer Bible, is a collection of essays by and about notable LGBTQ people. another book, grandpa camper, is a children’s book. Johnson said the library has a formal process residents can use to challenge books. Although verbal complaints were made about the two volumes, no formal challenges were filed, she said.
The Friends of Ridgeland Library have set up a fundraising campaign to make up for some of the lost funds. The group hoped to raise a few thousand dollars, but within days they had raised $75,000.
It’s great that people want to help, but the Ridgeland Library can’t always count on the kindness of strangers. Someone needs to confront McGee and inform him that while he’s mayor, that doesn’t mean he’s a supreme dictator with the power to throw any books he dislikes into metaphorical (or literal) fires.