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Community speaks against censorship of LGBTQ materials at Post Falls library meeting

For several months, Community Library Network trustees have heard from concerned residents about what they believe should be allowed in public libraries.
Credit: Madison Hardy, Coeur d'Alene Press
Nearly 50 Kootenai County residents showed up to a Community Library Network board of trustees meeting on Thursday to speak about censorship of LGBTQ and sexual materials.

POST FALLS, Idaho — Pushback against gay and transgender materials in Community Library Network facilities brought out a crowd Thursday, as reported by our news partner, Coeur d'Alene Press.

Despite a snow blitz and freezing temperatures, dozens of citizens dropped in on a library board of trustees meeting.

For several months, CLN trustees have heard from concerned residents about what they believe should be allowed in public libraries.

On Thursday, nearly 50 people crowded into the Post Falls Library board meeting room. Around the room were LGBT and queer pride flags, clothing and posters portraying rainbows.

Signs held by attendees donned phrases like "I deserve to know our history," "LGBTQ+ children exist," "CDA4Pride" and "Nazis banned books about minorities."

Part of the conflict stems from a CLN program geared toward LGBTQ+ teens and allies aged 11 to 18 called "Rainbow Squad."

Rainbow Squad is a monthly program that the library network has hosted for about three years. According to the network's website, Rainbow Squad attendees participate in crafts, activities and games.

On Nov. 20, Rainbow Squad attendees were met by a crowd of community members holding homophobic and anti-transgender signs outside the Post Falls Library entrance.

The Press wrote about the Rainbow Squad protest and previous trustee meetings on LGBTQ materials Dec. 1.

During the trustees' public comment period Thursday, 16 people testified in favor of allowing Community Library Network facilities to continue offering LGBTQ-related literature and programming. Eight speakers expressed opposition to literature, programming or discussing homosexual and transgender topics in public libraries.

Human Rights Education Institute Executive Director Jeanette Laster opened by reading a November statement from the American Library Association on "widespread efforts to censor books in U.S. schools and libraries."

In the ALA statement, the association condemned the "acts of censorship and intimidation" by organizations that have launched campaigns to remove books and resources about gay, queer, transgender and people of color.

"We stand opposed to censorship and any effort to coerce belief, suppress opinion, or punish those whose expression does not conform to what is deemed orthodox in history, politics, or belief," the statement reads. "The unfettered exchange of ideas is essential to the preservation of a free and democratic society."

Rathdrum resident Nina Beesley referenced several statutes under Idaho Code Title 18, Chapter 15 regarding the crime and punishment of disseminating obscene materials to minors.

Per I.C. 18-1514(1), "obscene materials" applies to materials that include a description of "sexual conduct" like "any act of masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact" with a person's clothed or unclothed body.

"Such materials and performances are a contributing factor to crime, to juvenile crime, and also a basic factor in impairing the ethical and moral development of our youth," Beesley read from the statute.

Other comments from the public included:

Tamara, Hayden

"I would like kids in our community to have access to books with characters that are like them. I would like kids in our community to have access to books with families like theirs. We as a community cannot let people with differing views censor our public libraries."

Joe Prado, Rathdrum

"I believe that children are sexualized enough, especially through pornography and just exposure to sexual acts in general, online, in the media, stuff like this. I think we should stop sexualizing children and stop exposing them to so-called alternative lifestyles, which I don't believe in, I'll say that much."

Jason Lauritzen, Post Falls

"This is Idaho. We believe in freedom. Whether it's religious freedom, the freedom to love, the freedom to raise our children how we want or to read what we want. Quit trying to ban books. Absolutely nothing in the children's LGBTQ book list from the Community Library Network has anything sexually explicit."

David Reilly, former Post Falls School Board candidate

"Over the past 60 or 70 years, there has been a program of censorship in this country … against traditional Christian values. These people all claim to stand against censorship, but every one of them was rejoicing the day Trump got banned from Twitter. It's not about censorship. It's about promoting gay agenda and corrupting our children. These people are perverts, and they are trying to pervert our children."

Marci Clark, Post Falls

"If I didn't want (my son) to read something, I would be there to stop him from bringing that book home. I would be there to see what he was reading. That's what you do as a parent — you parent. If you want to parent your kid, please do. But don't parent mine."

Randy Neal

"(My son's friend Emma) decided to start going through transition and her parents took the lead in supporting her in that, but then later on in life, she regretted making that choice. These are sensitive topics that have to be addressed with a mature adult so that they don't make decisions that they'll end up regretting for the rest of their lives."

For several months CLN trustees have discussed a policy to evaluate ongoing and future activities.

"What we're working through is how limiting or broad the policy should be," CLN Director Amy Rodda said in a recent interview with The Press. "We need a policy that provides a nice, general framework but is not too limited so that we support the viewpoints and perspectives of all audiences."

Trustees already approved a guideline for selecting library materials in 2018. According to the document, it aims to "maintain a balanced and diverse collection of materials that meet the informational, educational, and recreational needs of our residents."

Trustees continued their discussion of the programming policy on Thursday. The board also heard a request by freshman trustee Rachelle Ottosen to discuss whether CLN should "allow children 12 and under unrestricted access to sexual/LGBT materials" on a future board agenda.

Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our news partner, click here.

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