The recent announcement of what amounts to a book-banning protest on April 19 across the street from the Salida Public Library has prompted comments from several directions. While the initial news story addressed the protections afforded to freedom of speech protections of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, there is another aspect of calling for book banning that may not get enough attention.
“The current onslaught of book challenges is certainly an affront to the First Amendment,” said Gunnison County Library District Executive Director Drew Brookhart. “The vast majority of the challenges also seem to be aimed at erasing the experience of certain groups of people, which is also a human rights issue.”
A ‘Rosary Rally’ is the name given to one type of event promoted by the fringe Catholic group known as “America Needs Fatima”. A local group associated with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church has organized one in Salida next week at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, April 19. They plan on praying the rosary silently and holding a banner that says: “Please God-protect our children from porn and LGBT books in libraries and schools.”
It should be noted that it was in 2021 that the Vatican called on Catholics “to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations.”
“You don’t have to read it — you don’t have to check it out. But you can’t restrict the freedom of others just because you don’t like something,” said Salida Regional Library System Library Director Susan Matthews speaking to Ark Valley Voice yesterday. She is planning a positive rally in support of the library at 12:45 on April 19.
Other groups, such as the Partnership for Community Action (PfCA) are also planning rallies at the same time (probably on an opposite corner) in support of the Salida Regional Library and the First Amendment.
PfCA Director of Policy + Programming Jimmy Sellars noted in a letter to the community on Tuesday, “This gathering is to support the library, staff, and patrons and to stand against these harmful attacks directed at our LGBTQ+ members of the community.”
“I personally will be standing in support of The Salida Regional Library and the LGBTQ+ community on April 19th,” wrote Central Colorado Humanists President Fran Rulon-Miller. “I hope to see others in our community show support for human rights and the availability of books on human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation. If you can’t be there send me a good slogan for a sign.”
Brookhart said the Gunnison Library District is not aware of any similar “Rosary Rally” type of event occurring in neighboring Gunnison County. He confirmed that the Gunnison County Libraries own, or provide access through inter-library loan, to all of the titles on the list except “The Nights of Luna”, (the list of books called “perversive” provided on a flier promoting the Rosary Rally in Salida).
This activity is one of the dozens of right-wing intolerant groups around the country organizing against not just the books highlighting the acceptance issues of the LGBTQ+ community, but others focused on human rights. Among the targets are immigrant and Spanish language audiences, women’s rights and reproductive rights, as well as any books deemed ‘perversive’ or too violent.
There are dozens of nationally-organized attempts to limit access to certain topics or titles of books, magazines, and information on topics deemed controversial, from the LGBTQ+ community to reproductive health care and medical information on topics like vaccines, to those perversely attempting to block history topics such as the nonviolent civil rights marches of the 1960s due to their purported “violent nature,” as well as those that present unvarnished history that isn’t necessarily white nationalist.
Among the most concerning is a group known as Moms for Liberty with more than 200 chapters across the U.S. This makes it the largest driver of a nationwide book-banning crusade. It offers anything but liberty to women, children, families, young adults, and the general public.
While masquerading as a “parental rights” group, it is targeting public school libraries, often working in concert with two pro-censorship organizations called Book Look and Book Looks.
Together, these groups are forcing their agenda for a narrowed world of culled book titles and resources that meet their conservative criteria and limit the intellectual freedom of the rest of us. These groups do not represent majority opinions, but their organizing tactics and strident demands make them appear bigger and more widely representative than they really are (perhaps mirroring that the best defense is a good offense).
Media sources including Media Matters for America say these groups function with a unified strategy; organizing book ratings with weighted categories that are designed to incite outrage among parents. In addition to rating books, the groups’ members share out-of-context quotes on social media of books they consider “objectionable”. Many have admitted that they’ve never read the books, they are using social media to “gather attention” and “getting people engaged with outrage.”
In several states, their tactics have led to something just as concerning as their frontal assault on the First Amendment; it has led to harassment and threats against public school teachers, librarians, and education officials.
While shielded from outright comparisons to political activities, the broader strategy of these groups is clear; to cause dissent and chaos around cultural issues, driving divisions and positioning themselves and their “chosen” candidates for school board positions, Public Library Boards, and other local government leadership positions.
As Media Matters for America pointed out in a September 2022 article:
Notably, Book Look’s website directs parents to links about the anti-LGBTQ “grooming” smear and articles about Moms for Liberty “fighting against porn” in schools; it also provides users with anti-trans memes to spread on social media. Some of the group’s infographics push back against the accusation that Book Look and Moms for Liberty encourage banning books, claiming that they “support the process of challenging and removing books in school libraries” and establishing “book boundaries” — which they argue is distinct from “the banning of books.” (It’s not.)
In addition to the book-banning efforts of the Moms for Liberty Group and its associated groups Book Look and Book Looks, it positions itself at the center of the recent movement to whitewash American history curriculum (this is happening in several states –Florida and Texas are examples) They are also pushing an anti-LGBTQ agenda and at the same time using their supposed parent review process to advance a campaign placing right-wing propaganda in school libraries instead.
Is that all, you might ask? No, it isn’t. These groups are also behind the intentional stoking of outrage and encouraging distrust in public schools, as well as public library systems.
The Nazis used book burning to great effect in the build-up to World War II and the slaughter of millions of “certain types of people,” of which they did not approve. Many equate book banning to book burning. Media Matters for America was blunt in its assessment of book banning: “Banning and burning books is fascist.”