According to Q-Notes, a North Carolina GLBT newspaper, a couple in Wilmington, NC are holding a children's book hostage because they are outraged that their daughter (age undisclosed) checked out book called "King and King" from her elementary school library. The children's book is the tale of a young prince whose mother demands he get married, and so he does, to another boy (and he doesn't settle for a "separate but equal" civil union). Publishers Weekly deems the book suitable for children age six and up. But the conservative Christian couple disagrees and is refusing to return the book until the school promises to keep it out of circulation. Although the county has a review process for books that concerned parents can utilize, Michael and Tonya Hartsell prefer to enforce their position on the entire community. One suspects the Hartsells would not give back copies of Catcher in the Rye or Huckleberry Finn either. One also wonders if they also favor banning the Bible from the same library, given its graphic depictions of violence and sexual situations.
Fortunately, the school principal is standing firm on the issue for not removing the book and demanding it's return. According to Q-Notes, Principal Elizabeth Miars stated, "What might be inappropriate for one family, in another family is a totally acceptable thing." My full range of thanks and appreciation to Ms. Miars for taking this position, particularly in such a conservative state and during such a volatile time over gay rights. (Others who wish to express their appreciation to Ms. Miars may email her at the school, Freeman Elementary at email@example.com. I know I plan to do so.)
The Hartsells say they are considering removing their daughter and putting her in a Christian Academy where views contrary to their own will not be expressed. Has anyone else noticed this trend among the Religious Right? Homeschooling is very popular with Conservative Christians nowadays so they can protect their children from undesireable viewpoints and experiences. These couples want to "rear their child up in the ways of the Lord." Politicially, the Religious Right tries to institute laws that enshrine their own views into mainstream American society. Anybody who challenges laws they favor is instantly labelled as persecuting Christianity. Although nothing new, book banning and censorship seems on the rise, particularly after all the hub-bub over Ms. Jackson's nub. And family groups have labored for years to "clean up" television and movies to make them more suitable for children.
I wonder if this new strategy is a misunderstanding of Jesus' proclamation that "you do not belong to the world, but I have chose you out of the world." (John 15:19). They must have missed the other parts about "going out into the world" (Mark 15:16). I don't recall Jesus telling Christians to be isolationists. It also seems to reveal a fundamental uncertainty about Fundamentalism if these people don't think their faith and tenets are strong enough to be tested. Isn't it good to have the opportunity to teach a child why you believe a certain way or disagree with a certain viewpoint? And, furthermore, what ever happened to the responsibility that parents have to monitor and control what their children see in various media? Why have conservative Christians decided to abdicate their God-given mandate to watch over their child and hand that responsibility over to media watchdog groups and media networks? Are Fundamentalists unaware of the censorship technology of, not the V-chip, but the "off" button?
But, I digress. I'm both amused and disturbed at the hijacking of this book. Parents have every right to chose what their child reads, but not a right to mandate what other children read. Truly, it's a snapshot of the struggles going on currently in America in micro-scale.