Three Maine clergymen try to ban a library display of banned books

Reader Ken called my attention to an article in the Lewiston (Maine) Sun Journal about a group of three clergymen who tried to ban not books, but worse: they tried to ban a display of banned books at the local library.

It turns out that National Banned Books Week is from September 23-29, when libraries and bookstores throughout the USA will put up displays of banned books as reminders of the odious nature of literary censorship. The Rumford (Maine) Public Library also put up a display recently, shown below (click on it to see the books that have been banned). In response, three “men of faith” wrote a letter to the library objecting to the display. (I’m guessing that all of these books are actually in the library.)

The banned books display at the Rumford Public Library will remain, trustees voted last week. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

An excerpt (my emphasis):

Seventy people gathered Sept. 11 in the Children’s Room at the library to debate the display, which three members of the local clergy said in a letter to trustees was not appropriate for a public library serving the families and people of the River Valley.

The message from the audience was one of acceptance and diversity.

The two-page letter was received Sept. 6 by Rumford Library Director Tamara Butler, signed by Dan Pearson, pastor of the Rumford Baptist Church, Justin Thacker, pastor of Praise Assembly of God., and the Rev. Nathan March of Parish of the Holy Savior.

Pearson, who was present with Thacker, opened the discussion.

“I do want to apologize for some of the wording in the letter,” he said. “I did not want to alienate the gay community.”

He said they thought their letter would be presented to the board of trustees.

“I think it was unfortunate it was posted publicly, before we had a chance to have a discussion with this small group or to revise some things in it that created some of the hoopla,” Pearson said.

“None of us that signed that are interested in banning or destroying any books. I don’t know how that rumor got started. There was concern because a few of the books on the banned book display, front and center, were displaying sexual themes that we thought were not appropriate for children, especially. Displayed prominently up front, when they’re coming in there.”

What people objected to, including a local high school teacher who’s quoted in the piece, was the display of books with LGBTQ themes, even though they’re in the library and have been banned elsewhere. Fortunately, the audience at the public hearing was sympathetic to the display (my emphasis).

Each month, the Rumford Public Library has a themed book display.

Mary Ann Fournier said, “I’ve been coming to this library just about every day since I was 5 years old, and I now work here.”

June was Pride Month, and as a member of the LGBTQ community, she did a pride display.

“I had ‘Two Boys Kissing’ and ‘My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness’ on that display (books also on the banned books display),” she said. “My question is why didn’t anyone come to me and complain in June?

“And you want me to hide the LGBTQ books that are like bibles to some of these children. Some of these books are stolen by some of these LGBTQ teens because they don’t want their parents to know they’re checking them out,” she said.

Mitzi Sequoia said the gay pride display was the first time since she moved to Rumford in 1996 that “anyone ever even acknowledged the gay community or alternate lifestyles.”

The good news is that the library’s trustees voted unanimously to retain the display. To paraphrase Clarence Darrow, literary censorship is busy ever feeding, trying to drag us back to the Dark Ages when nobody was allowed to read mildly subversive literature—not even the Bible. And it’s gotten worse now that the Left has decided that free speech should take a back seat to people’s feelings.  Thank goodness for librarians and their supporters, who have always been a bastion of freedom of expression in America. Kudos to the Rumford library and its trustees!

 

 

51 Comments

  1. busterggi
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Clergymen like these banned the common folk from having the bible available in local languages for centuries so they could hold authority over them. If they’d ban their own book they’ll ban others.

  2. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read any of the books as far as I could discern from the display. I’d always be tempted to read banned books, but if three pastors protest:doubly so. The Barabara Streisand effect I think it is called nowadays/
    To be clear, I think I’ve read only 2 ‘banned books’ in my life, as far as I know, one was called ‘Numbers’ a book about a gay guy having a lot of gay sex, which did not really get my ears red, rather boring, and the other ‘Pauls Adventures’, which was pornography more exciting to my younger self.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      When I was a school kid, I’d check out the high-school sports scores in the weekly rag put out by the local Catholic diocese every weekend. There on the back page, next to the box scores, there’d always be a box with movie titles marked CONDEMNED in big bold letters, put out by the Legion of Decency, usually with foreign fare like “I Am Curious (Yellow)” and “Jules et JIm” and “And God Created Woman,” but also some Brit and Yank movies, too, like “Barbarella” or “Of Human Bondage.”

      I promised myself right then and there that someday I’d go to every one of those films, and I’ve never passed up a chance to see one of ’em since.

      • Mike Cracraft
        Posted September 19, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. and I remember that back in the 50’s the RCC also banned certain pop songs that offended their theology (remember “Nervous Norvus” and his hit Transfusion ?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 19, 2018 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

          Nervous Norvus was a little bit before my time, daddy-o, but I’ve tracked down “Transfusion” and listened to it, and, gotta admit, the tag lines like “shoot the juice to me, Bruce” and “put a gallon in me, Alan” and “pump the fluid in me, Louie” made me laugh.

          On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Catholics have no objection whatever to blood transfusions. That would be Christian Scientists and Jehovah Witnesses.

      • Posted September 19, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        Do you know what was the top grossing movie of the 1940s, after the big 4 Disney cartoons? Mom and Dad by William Beaudine. But movie chains wouldn’t show it, it ran in roadshows with rented theatres. Condemned by everyone who condemned anything! And a bigger money maker than any studio could manage!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 19, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

          I haven’t seen Mom and Dad, and it’s not the kinda movie that’s really in my wheelhouse, but now that I know it was “condemned,” I’ll make a point of seeing it. 🙂

    • eric
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      If you’re an American and you went through the public school system, you’ve probably read several banned books. Starting with Lord of the Flies, then on to Animal Farm, then Huck Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and/or Of Mice and Men in high school. If you studied literature in college, you might also have gotten Lolita and Ulysses.

      Those are all ‘banned books’ from prior generations.

      Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham also technically counts as a banned book, though it was only banned in China. Evidently they considered it an unflattering description of communism. Perhaps they confused it with Animal Farm. 🙂

      • Posted September 20, 2018 at 3:59 am | Permalink

        Lord of the Flies???

        • eric
          Posted September 20, 2018 at 5:35 am | Permalink

          Teen book by William Golding. A bunch of kids get stranded on a desert island and form their own society. It quickly turns savage/nasty.

          • Posted September 20, 2018 at 6:08 am | Permalink

            Technically it was the patent application for Twitter.

          • Posted September 20, 2018 at 6:20 am | Permalink

            I may be wrong but I suspect that Dominic’s query was not ‘what is Lord of the Flies?’ but rather ‘has it really been banned?’.

            I am not aware of it having been the subject of a national ban anywhere in the sense that it was not legally available to any reader. Rather, in common with several of the titles mentioned, it has at various times been banned/blocked from public (sensu USA) school reading lists and libraries.

            • eric
              Posted September 20, 2018 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

              Most of the books haven’t been the target of a national ban. As you say, most of the things on that table have been the target of state or local efforts to get them removed from school reading lists and libraries.

  3. rickflick
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Good for the library!

  4. Posted September 19, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    So mets.

  5. Posted September 19, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    These books weren’t banned because many librarians accept gays now, but there are still many books which biased librarians will censor. For instance, I once tried to donate a book of arguments for atheism to my library, but there was a Christian librarian who marked it up with “rebuttals” in the margins and put it on the shelf of used books for sale the very next morning.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      Sacrilege.

    • Tom Waddell
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Atheists are a notch below child molesters. Want to elect a president that would make Trump look a school boy? Run an atheist him.

      • mikeyc
        Posted September 19, 2018 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        What?

        • Tom Waddell
          Posted September 19, 2018 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

          This was a reply to someone who mentioned she gave a book on atheism to a library but the Christian librarian wrote rebuttals in the margins and out it up for sale as a used book. The point of my comment was that atheists are thought of as the lowest of the low. This website does not post replies right below the comment that prompted the reply. As a stand alone comment I see your confusion. Maybe I should show the relevant post a reply is to.

          • Posted September 20, 2018 at 6:26 am | Permalink

            Your comment is displayed as a reply to comment No 5 which I think is what you intended. Sometimes irony can be misinterpreted but I think you have made yourself clear now.

  6. Posted September 19, 2018 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm. Ban books that make you think…… Yes. Ban weapons that kill, maim and destroy…… No. Something is askew.

    • Posted September 19, 2018 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      There’s a Drake meme in there somewhere.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      A very good point, to which a number of thinking people have recurred recently. Here’s David D. Levine: “How absurd, she thought, that the sight of a man’s naked breast should be more objectionable than to see him possibly blown to bits.” Arabella and the Battle of Venus, Chapter 9.

      And James Morrow: “The world’s odd tolerance of fighting cropped up again and again in Francis’s study of history, particularly ancient history. On Earth, where his remotest forebears lived, a person could be indisputably responsible for the deaths of thousands and still go down in the history books as some sort of great hero. This was before Francis understood the biological inevitability of violence, so he was bewildered. Why, he wanted to know, were the names of Samson, Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Ulysses S. Grant, and Julius Caesar not obscenities, spoken after dark in whispers of revulsion and shame? The same teachers who couldn’t bring themselves to say shitbrain or ortwaddle openly discussed Alexander the Great.
      He never found anyone who had the answer. Until he got to Planet Carlotta, he never even found anyone who had the question.” The Wine of Violence, Chapter 2

      • Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        People much wiser than I have said, I’d rather have my son watch a film with two people making love than two people trying to kill one other. And I of course agree. I wish I know who said it first, and I agree with that.

        – George Carlin

    • Posted September 20, 2018 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      What would the world be like had the Spitfire and T34 been banned?

      • Posted September 20, 2018 at 6:32 am | Permalink

        I guess that depends on whether or not the Messerschmidt 109 and the Panzer had also been banned.

        Do you not think it odd that so many people are far readier to ban or restrict access to books than to ban or restrict access to guns? It is surely possible to envisage a situation where a nation can have armed forces at its disposal for its defence but individual, private citizens are not armed to the teeth? – There are even countries where this is already the case!

  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    This seems a very good cause and a chance for some open and frank discussion. I admit to being a little discomfitted over some of the covers that seem highly sexualized, since I am a bit old fashioned about such things being openly displayed in a public library. But I will just get over it. There are more important things at stake. What is especially positive is to see a library finding a way to still be very relevant to a community in the internet age.

    • Posted September 20, 2018 at 4:04 am | Permalink

      It is not the content but the cover? Yes, sexualized images on display to children are giving them the wrong idea about their bodies, & can be harmful, but the images there are tame compared with the world of adverts…
      This may be of interest –
      an author inhibited from publishing –
      https://tinyurl.com/y762rogp

  8. Steve Pollard
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I agree, this is a great idea; and those who object to it reveal rather a lot about themselves.

    I note that many of the books in the display have been banned somewhere or other in the US, including Uncle Tom’s Cabin; but others are only banned elsewhere (unless I have missed something), such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Kite Runner. What an opportunity for a discussion about why books are banned, who wants to ban them, and why this differs between cultures!

    Maybe the Torah, the Bible and the Qur’an should be in there too.

    • Posted September 19, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      They should. Arguably the Bible is the most banned book in history, especially in translation.
      Huck Finn should be front and center as it is still the subject of ongoing campaigns to ban it.

  9. SusanD
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Why would Farenheit 451 he banned ANYWHERE?? What’s wrong with it??

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      Not sure if there was more than one reason. But one reason was that it used a swear word, and the book is popularly read by young people. See here: https://lithub.com/they-tried-to-ban-fahrenheit-451-and-replace-it-with-my-book/

      • philfinn7
        Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        That’s an interesting article, and written by a ‘pastor and theologian’.

    • eric
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      A few states tried to ban it for vulgarity. Texas tried to ban it for vulgarity, because of it’s negative depiction of ‘firemen,’ and because one of the initial scenes in the book has the bible getting burned.

    • Posted September 21, 2018 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Definitely ironic to ban it.

      It should, of course, be burned.

  10. Posted September 19, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    >”My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness”

    A 2016 autobiographical psychological manga about a lonely girl who seeks out a lesbian prostitute so she would feel less lonely. I highly recommend it and it felt realistic. I do remember something about it being banned though I cannot remember where.

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    It’s important to note – that is clearly the adult section.

    Young adult would still be appropriate.

    Children’s : a number of those covers are absolutely not appropriate.

    In case it appears any ground is given to the complainers – no.

  12. Mark Joseph
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    At this link to Powell’s books there are other links to three short, but interesting articles on banned books week, as well as a list.

  13. boggy
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Presumably for Muslims, and other creationists, Darwin’s ‘Origin’is also banned.

  14. Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Powell’s used to distribute lists of banned books annually during banned books week. I don’t know where I’ve misplaced it, but in addition to Powell’s list, I used to have the RCC list of banned books. I once hoped to read all of them. Although I’ve read many, I haven’t yet managed to read them all.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_Librorum_Prohibitorum

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_authors_and_works_on_the_Index_Librorum_Prohibitorum

  15. Graham
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    ‘“I did not want to alienate the gay community.” He said they thought their letter would be presented to the board of trustees.’

    So. OK to talk unpleasantly about gay people if it’s in private, and just the board of trustees. Obviously nobody on the board would be gay, nor have gay friends, nor gay children, so OK to talk about them pesky Gays ‘just between ourselves’. But then the board went all democratic on us and had to share the letter with the community. Boy is my face red.

    • Derec Avery
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      ‘“I did not want to alienate the gay community.” He said they thought their letter would be presented to the board of trustees.’

      I cannot see how this letter was authored to do anything else. Alienate and condemn the LGBT community as being unacceptable to your religious beliefs.

      Good thing it was made public. The community now knows where you stand on the issue of LGBT rights. You don’t.

      • Graham
        Posted September 20, 2018 at 7:40 am | Permalink

        Amazing how they co-opt Muslim fellow religionists in an attempt to strengthen their argument and display such concern for the local Muslim community, even whilst acknowledging that no such community exists.

        • Posted September 20, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

          Yeah – I thought that was a really powerful argument: this could offend a bunch of people who don’t live here and wont visit the library and see it! Talk about clutching at straws!

  16. Posted September 20, 2018 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    Why is Darwin not front & centre? was he not banned or is he still too controversial?

    • David Evans
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      I expect most Christian parents thought, probably correctly, that their children would not choose to read such a big old-fashioned book. I’m sure I’ve read that some of Dawkins’ books on evolution have been banned.

  17. Posted September 20, 2018 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    🐜

  18. Posted September 20, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Interesting that the clergy’s first complaint is that their campaign was made public. Glad to see that sunshine and good thinking dealt with their campaign so effectively.

  19. Posted September 20, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    H. L. Mencken knew how to deal with situations like that:

    https://www.massmoments.org/moment-details/h-l-mencken-arrested-in-boston.html

    OTH, the books on display are a joke if they’re supposed to represent freedom of thought and ideological diversity. They’re all perfectly orthodox, right out of the establishment canon. One gang of pious zealots is fighting it out against another gang of pious zealots. It’s as if a bunch of fanatical Christians were demonstrating their commitment to “freedom of thought” with a display of the Bible, lives of the saints, and the commentaries of Thomas Aquinas.

    How about adding “The Bell Curve,” a book each by Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage, “Mein Kampf,” an early 20th century book on eugenics, a couple of histories by late 19th century British imperialists about the advantages of colonialism to native peoples, one by a pre-Civil War southerner on the moral imperative of slavery, books by Bernardi and Wolseley praising the healthy benefits of war, and “The God Delusion” and “Faith vs Fact” thrown in like cherries to top it all off? I suspect that, after swallowing their gum, these noble defenders of freedom of thought would gleefully start the bonfires burning, and that with alacrity.


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