Inside The Fight To Shield Kids From Graphic Material In A Deep Red State

The fight to keep sexually explicit books away from children is not just being fought in big liberal cities.

Even in deep red Alabama, there is resistance to removing books such as the sexually explicit LGBT-themed book “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” in which there are graphic descriptions of anal rape and incest. It’s the book that Louisiana Senator John Kennedy read aloud during a Senate committee hearing last year, shocking all in attendance.  The book graphically describes sexual activities and includes lines like, “He didn’t know I was a virgin, and I did my best to act dominant like my favorite porn star,” and, “He reached his hand down and pulled out my d**k. He quickly went to giving me head.”

But just last month, an effort from concerned residents in one small Alabama community asking for the book to be moved to the adult section of their local library was denied. Under current guidelines, parents can complain about a book, but a committee appointed by the library director decides the fate of the book. The committee in charge of reviewing “All Boys Aren’t Blue” in Huntsville-Madison County unanimously ruled that it should stay in the library’s young adult section. 

Cindy Hewitt, the executive director of the Huntsville-Madison Library, told one concerned resident on May 28 that the committee found that though the content in the book is “frank and open” it is “relevant to the author’s history,” according to a letter obtained by The Daily Wire. According to Hewitt, the committee found that it would be a “disservice to remove it from the collection as it would neglect to consider the real-world issues of sex and sexual abuse that some teenagers may already be experiencing.” 

A new policy set to go into effect next month, however, could create a new calculus for local libraries. After July 15, funding for state libraries will be tied to removing sexually explicit and graphic books from the children’s sections of public libraries.

Under the new rules, libraries will be required to come up with a “selection criteria for minors and how they are safeguarded from sexually explicit or other material deemed inappropriate for children or youth.”

The policies also stipulate that libraries will need to have provisions in place to move books that have been deemed sexually explicit or inappropriate for children. The amended rules say that libraries shall “approve written guidelines that ensure library sections designated for minors under the age of 18 remain free of material containing obscenity, sexually explicit or other material deemed inappropriate for children or youth.”

Another rule would create guidelines for library cards handed out to minors, including that parents need to give approval and that the cards can’t be used to check out books from the adult section of the library. This would give parents, like the ones attempting to have “All Boys Aren’t Blue” moved from the young adult shelves of the Huntsville-Madison County Library, a new avenue to have their complaints addressed

John Wahl, the chair of the Alabama Republican Party and a member of the Alabama Public Library System, told The Daily Wire that he fully expects the policies to go into place.

”Once these go into effect on July 15, Alabama will have some of the strongest regulations in the country to make sure children are protected,” Wahl told The Daily Wire. “It is time that we protect children from social engineering and from materials that really are not appropriate for them.” 

He added that parents had come before the APLS board to tell them about sexually explicit books their kids had found at local libraries. He said that the people of Alabama “want the libraries to be cleaned up” and that taxpayer dollars should not go to purchase explicit books aimed at children. 

Credit: H. Rick Bamman/Pioneer Press/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images.

Media and leftist activists have attempted to portray the pending rule as a “book ban,” but backers say its a misrepresentation.

“No one is about banning books. We’re not trying to ban anything. We are trying to definitely protect children though,” APLS board member Amy Minton told The Daily Wire. “Why do we have these books in our public libraries that encourage the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity when it’s against the current law of Alabama?”

She added that the vast majority of public comments sent in related to the policies were in support. 

According to Elizabeth Stewart, an organizer with the conservative group Moms for Liberty and resident of Athens, Alabama, a large part of the push for children’s books with graphic material is coming from the American Library Association, which wants to expose children to “various forms of sexual activity.”

The American Library Association is run by a self-described “lesbian Marxist” and has vigorously protested any effort to shield children from graphic materials while pushing leftist ideology. 

”Everytime we make a choice to put something in, we are simultaneously making a choice to not put something in,” Stewart said. “And so it does make a difference — there’s not an endless space in each library to put everything which is why age appropriate curriculum material selection policy has to be written well.” 

CHINO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 20: A man holds a sign in support of a policy that the Chino Valley school board is meeting to vote on which would require school staff to "out" students to their parents if they ask to be identified by a gender that is not listed on their birth certificate on July 20, 2023 in Chino, California. In June, the board voted 4-1 to revise guidelines for ceremonies and observances that would only allow U.S., California, military, foreign nations and flags of higher education institutions, effectively banning LGBTQ+ pride flags from being displayed on school district property. Today's vote is a continuation of the June meeting discussion of matters affecting LGBTQ+ students.

Credit: Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

Library boards will play an important part in developing policies that will be in accordance with the new APLS guidelines.

Stewart told The Daily Wire that it is important for local citizens to take responsibility for their own communities. That’s why she’s been pushing for clarity on the makeup of her own Athens-Limestone County Public Library board, which has been embroiled in controversy the last several months over its policies on sexually-themed books and board appointments. 

The controversy began when longtime librarian and mother Carissa Callan was alarmed by a posted policy that said the library was supposed to supply books on sex “that reflect changing attitudes and departures from traditional mores.” As a resident of Limestone County, Callan applied for a spot on the board, as the library’s publicly posted policies said three board appointments were given to the city and two to the county.

After being denied an application on the board, Callan and Stewart discovered that the library board was completely controlled by the city, contradicting posted policy. They launched an effort to hire outside legal counsel to get county residents a guaranteed spot on the board. 

“County citizens have continued paying as if it’s a joint board since 2009 but without representation,” a GiveSendGo organized by “Limestone County Citizens” to raise funds for a constitutional lawyer says. “County residents are seeking legal answers to public policy being incorrect for 15 years.”

The city makes up just about 26% of Limestone’s population of around 110,000. The library’s total expected revenue for fiscal year 2024 came to around $628,600. This funding came from multiple sources, including the county and the state, totaling around $224,244, according to records viewed by The Daily Wire. 

Stewart said that county citizens were effectively getting taxed twice for something they did not have a voice on. 

“The county citizens are getting hit twice. They’re paying their local county commission for no representations,” Stewart told The Daily Wire. “The state of Alabama has been funding this library for 15 years under documentation and legal bylaws stating that it has remained a joint library effort and a joint board.” 

The city of Athens told The Daily Wire that the incorrect information about the board appointment on the website appeared to be the result of “human error,” and that it had been removed from the website “weeks ago.” 

The library’s current page on policies says it is “under construction,” and current policies on board membership cannot be found online. However, the library’s updated policies from this May are available upon request from the library, and were obtained by The Daily Wire. 

That policy no longer contains the requirement for books “that reflect changing attitudes and departures from traditional mores,” but now stipulates that the library board is all appointed by the city. Limestone residents still have questions about why the county provides funding without getting to make any board appointments. 

The Limestone County Commission voted last week to approve a resolution that expresses a goal of forming a joint-library board again with at least two county representatives. The resolution would require an agreement to be reached by October 1. The exact details appear to still be up in the air and county residents remain unconvinced that the board will be changed. 

A spokeswoman for Athens said that the “city and the county are exploring modifications so that the board contains appointments from both the city and county,” adding that “when/if those changes are made, the library policy will also be changed.”

None of the members of the Limestone County Commission responded to Daily Wire requests for comment. 

Limestone residents also believe that there should be an independent review of the board regardless of whether the county is given any seats on the board or not. Wahl agrees, saying that there should be an independent review from outside to ensure that a fair resolution is found. 

Stewart said that there needs to be a legitimate board in place in Athens before they can develop a policy on sexually explicit books in accordance with the APLS. Regardless, the Athens-Limestone Library will need to submit its policy by October if the new guidelines take effect in July

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