Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, the Virginia offshoot of the Family Research Council, criticized the Jews of Yeshiva University, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a community library in suburban Milwaukee, for their efforts to defend academic integrity and intellectual freedom.
PFOX accused Yeshiva University of “censorship” for refusing to allow an ex-gay propagandist to harangue a forum of four gay Orthodox Jews who spoke of the spiritual and emotional pain of being forced to stay in the closet. PFOX asserted that JONAH, an ostensibly Jewish organization which uses Christian evangelical literature to encourage Jews to stay in the closet and pretend to be heterosexual — should have been included in the forum for balance. Both PFOX and JONAH clearly missed — or intentionally disregarded — the purpose of the forum.
Censorship is an act by government censors to suppress speech or delete communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government. In the case of Yeshiva University, however, a private institution and its faculty and students exercised their right not to have their own freedom of expression hijacked by a rival private group. PFOX and JONAH, on the other hand, sought to force a private institution to air their unfactual and off-topic views.
PFOX also called upon the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to rescind an Intellectual Freedom Award granted to the West Bend (Wisconsin) Memorial Community Library. The library was honored, according to the School Library Journal, for resisting pressure by local social conservatives and city officials to ban 58 young-adult books which addressed sexual orientation and gender identity. The books included Brent Hartinger’ Geography Club (HarperCollins), Stephan Chbosky’ The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Esther Drill’ Deal With It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain and Life as a gURL(both S & S). The conservatives later sought, again unsuccessfully, to move these and 24 other books to a restricted adult section of the library.
In the latter case, PFOX sought to force the library to carry ex-gay propaganda regardless of its factual inaccuracies and poor literary quality. No government agency stopped PFOX from publishing and distributing its propaganda. And one suspects that PFOX supports the social conservatives’ own attempts to rid the library of books relating to sex and gender.
If PFOX ever donates factual books, such as the excellent scientific analysis Ex-Gay Research or Wayne Besen’s primer Anything But Straight, we’ll be first to support the donated books’ inclusion in library stacks.
For more information:
Targeted books included:
- “Baby Be-Bop” by Francesca Lia Block, about a teen struggling with his homosexuality. This book was deemed inappropriate for anyone: “inappropriate for the elderly and their minor grandchildren, and degrades the community.” Specifically, “They call one character ‘faggot’ with every swear word you can think of … and they use the N-word,” the book’s critic said.
- “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “The Geography Club” — falsely deemed to be “explicitly” sexual.
- “Deal With It! a whole new approach to your body, brain and life as a gURL” — falsely deemed to be pornographic. None of the accusations were substantiated.
A West Bend library handout (PDF file) helpfully includes a chronology of the book-burners’ tactics and a link to the book list.