Appreciates library clarification response
An unintended consequence of misinformation (August 9 letter to The Herald) is that it evokes a clarifying response (August 16 letter to The Herald) appreciated by any not wedded to the agenda fueling the misinformation.
Thank you, Julie Phillips. Botetourt County Libraries are lucky to have you. Whether your credentials, vision, and clarification open minds closed by such blatant misinformation (to use the kindest word) remains to be seen.
A call to stop exploiting Botetourt’s children
At the Botetourt County Library Board meeting on August 16, the board, librarians, and public at the meeting were subjected to a performance that has become a regular fixture at this kind of public forum of late: an out-of-context dramatic reading of sex-education material meant to shock and outrage those in attendance.
This reading was performed by Charles Ruhl, a spokesperson for Botetourt Residents Against Child Exploitation (or B.R.A.C.E.), the local chapter of a well-funded political organizing movement which creates controversy in local government in order to gin up support and fervor in national and statewide elections.
At this recent meeting, the speakers from B.R.A.C.E. maintained the amount of decorum imposed upon them since their previous behavior compelled the Library Board to hold their regular meetings with sheriff’s deputies in attendance for security. Readers who don’t regularly attend Board of Supervisors or Library Board meetings may be surprised to learn that the core members of B.R.A.C.E. who attend and speak at these meetings are not themselves parents, or at least not parents of young or even adolescent children, nor by their own admission do they have grandchildren in attendance at Botetourt County schools. On the contrary, these self-appointed champions of parental choice don’t have kids, but seek to make choices on the behalf and without the consent of parents of currently affected children.
During his story about how he encountered this particular book, Mr. Ruhl told an anecdote clearly meant to surprise or amuse the audience. While waiting for a meeting at a public library in Salem, he was wandering the children’s section looking for sexual material, when he was approached by a librarian who told him he wasn’t allowed in that part of the library without a child present. Or, as he paraphrased, “if you don’t have a child, you can’t be in here.”
Here he paused for effect; what a world gone mad, he seemed to imply, when a self-appointed moral guardian can’t troll the children’s section of a public library for titillating materials. He then went on to read out some of the more explicit passages from the sex education book in question, which he had ultimately located in the parenting section where it had been all along. As a parent of two young girls myself, frankly I found the idea of this older man wandering the children’s section of the library looking for material he finds sexually compelling quite disturbing, and I’m grateful that local libraries have policies to protect children from such situations. As a father, I find Mr. Ruhl’s fixation on the sexuality of other people’s children inappropriate and wholly unwelcome.
The members of B.R.A.C.E. frequently accuse public officials acting in good faith of having nefarious hidden agendas. Listening to their talking points, though, it is clear that their protestations in this regard demonstrate their own desire to further an unspoken ideology through their activism. Alarmed at the ways in which their fellow citizens exercise their civil liberties, the members of B.R.A.C.E. apparently wish to exert control over how the rest of us worship and engage with public civil life; they wish to place themselves as arbiters of who among us is worthy of First Amendment protections and to judge who gets to have a family. To this end, they have unscrupulously appropriated our own children to act as a rhetorical shield for their misguided convictions.
I hope readers will join me in calling on B.R.A.C.E. to stop exploiting our children as a political tool for their ideological ends, and I encourage the citizens of Botetourt County to join the many of us rallying to the defense of our fine public libraries and the rights of parents to determine what is best for our own children. We as parents have a right to navigate our children’s education and access to free speech without the interference of a group of moralistic activists.
I entreat Mr. Ruhl and his fellows to heed the spirit of the librarian’s words: If you don’t have a child, don’t presume to tell those of us who do how to protect and educate our own.
BRACE addresses attorney’s presentation to supervisors
During the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 17, County Attorney Michael Lockaby presented a legal analysis regarding the ability of the board to remove obscene books for children and teenagers from our county libraries.
His presentation was an embarrassment. It appeared to consist mainly of talking points from the pro-pornography American Library Association (ALA) and a few historical Google searches. It was shoddy and incomplete to the point of malpractice. One wonders exactly whom he purports to represent.
Mr. Lockaby began by claiming that the power to make changes to library policy rests with the Library Board of Trustees, stating: “The Library Board continues to make the policies that the library staff implements…. The Library Board has the power to make rules and set policies for the exercise of its authority, and this includes developing and implementing policies for the development and retention of books in the libraries.”
Really? According to the county website, the Library Board is only “advisory” and has no other powers. The Library Board’s by-laws state: “Trustees provide opinion and guidance to the Library Director.” The Library Board certainly doesn’t hire and fire any staff. In fact, all the power lies with the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors appoint the Library Board members, control the library funding, and control the hiring of all staff.
Regarding litigation, Mr. Lockaby attempted to portray presenting pornography to children as a First Amendment right. He cherry-picked a few of the ALA’s favorite court cases, and (as the ALA does) misrepresented them. For example, he talked at length about the U.S. Supreme Court 1982 Pico case. He used this to claim that books already on the shelves may not be removed because of their content. But the Pico case was not about obscenity. It was about mainstream books whose viewpoints parents objected to.
He brought up the well-known U.S. Supreme Court 1973 Miller case, but only in a vague manner. Mr. Lockaby neglected to mention the important part: the Court held that obscene materials do not enjoy First Amendment protection. Instead, Mr. Lockaby made the ridiculous suggestion that parents use an obscure Virginia statute to sue the book publishers for selling obscene books here. Why should parents have to do that? The truth is that the Botetourt library staff purposely bought the books because they are obscene. They knew exactly what was in them.
Mr. Lockaby brought up the U.S. Supreme Court 2003 United States v American Library Association case – which he also misrepresented. He tried to paint it as promoting “intellectual freedom and access to information.” It’s just the opposite. In 2000, Congress had passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requiring public libraries to install internet filtering software on their computers to qualify for federal funding. The ALA sued, claiming it violated the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court strongly disagreed and ruled against the ALA. It was noted that “libraries have wide discretion to exclude pornography and other sexually explicit material” and that “a library’s interest in protecting its minor patrons from harmful sexual materials is not only legitimate, but compelling.” This ruling basically sets the standard for the rights of libraries to keep out pornography – despite the continued protests and misinformation about that from the ALA.
And in fact, libraries around the country are keeping out pornography – and removing it when it’s found on their shelves – without any actual legal problems.
For example, in Campbell County, Wyo., this year the Library Board implemented a policy to keep out materials that contain obscenity, pornography, and sexual perversions. The new policy specifically cites the 2003 US v ALA case as its basis. And when the library director refused to comply, the Library Board fired her!
A few weeks ago in St. Marys, Kansas, the library removed a children’s book about transgenderism. The ALA whined in the local newspaper, but not much more. Standing up to the ALA is beginning to happen more and more across America.
Mr. Lockaby refers to our library employees as “professionals” who shouldn’t be interfered with in their duties. They are only professionals in the sense that they get a paycheck for working in a library. Pornography is considered a terrible public health problem across the country, and is particularly destructive to the developing minds of children. Real library professionals would not have anything to do with it. If there was not a narrow loophole in the state’s obscenity laws exempting schools and libraries, these “professionals” would be in jail.
Finally, Mr. Lockaby brought up the hysterical threats that the county is risking an expensive lawsuit if it protects children by removing pornography from its libraries. The ALA and ACLU regularly send well-crafted, frightening letters to local governments threatening huge lawsuits if they remove the pornography from children’s and teens’ sections. And most officials fearfully back down. But it’s a paper tiger. It’s difficult to name a case that actually went to court. And the reason they trot out the old 1982 Pico case is that they virtually never win.
In closing, please do not insult the intelligence of the people of Botetourt County by taking seriously such shoddy and absurd “legal advice” in order to avoid doing your job of protecting the children. And do not pretend that there is no obscenity, pornography, or sexual perversions depicted in the books for children and teenagers here. We have amply shown you examples of that, and we will be happy to show it to you again. And we do not want your absurd “parental controls.” We want clean libraries.
Botetourt Residents Against Child Exploitation
Race Committee thanks sponsors
We would like to take a moment to express our sincere gratitude for your sponsorship of our Fall Run in 2023. Your support has been instrumental in making a positive impact on our organization and the community we serve.
Your generosity has allowed us to enhance the quality of our race T-shirts, reach a wider audience, and share valuable information with our community. We deeply appreciate your commitment to our cause and are inspired by your belief in our mission for our community.
Thank you once again for your valuable contribution. We look forward to continuing this successful partnership and achieving even greater success together.
First Bank Fall Run Race Committee