Last month, the Burlington County, New Jersey, public library director Gail Sweet — acting in violation of library guidelines — censored the book Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology. She acted in collaboration with Christian Rightists who had succeeded in censoring the same book at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in May. Both actions were effected solely on the basis of antigay bigotry; in the view of the censors, all literature relating to youth and sexual orientation constitutes “child pornography.” Anti-censorship, free-speech, and pro-equality advocates mounted an ongoing resistance campaign.
Today, a few weeks later, the Cookeville Herald Citizen in Tennessee reported that the Alliance Defense Fund and local evangelical author Ilene Vick are suing the Putnam County Library for prohibiting the use of a public room by her evangelical book club.
The newspaper cites the library’s policies for room use:
* Library activities have priority over any outside pre-arranged or regularly scheduled groups or events.
* Bookings for meeting rooms are to be arranged through the reference librarian no less than 24 hours before the meeting.
* Meeting rooms are available for public gatherings of a civic, cultural or educational character. Rooms are not available for meetings of social, political, partisan or religious purposes; for the benefit of private individuals or commercial concerns; for the presentation of one side of controversial matters; or when in the judgment of the Library Board, disorder may be likely to occur.
* The rooms may be used by joint committees or associations from more than one church for business, educational, and cultural transactions when no religious services are involved.
Christian Right media outfit OneNewsNow joined the ADF in asserting that Christian Rightists enjoy a special right to bypass any usage restrictions and to evangelize wherever they please.
Should an atheist, Buddhist feminist, Jewish environmentalist, or gay conservative author seek to use the Putnam County library’s meeting room, I’m betting that ADF, OneNewsNow, and all of their friends will threaten the author — not the library. Censorship is great — until you’re not the one being denied access to the public.