Alabama anti-porn group wants librarians to face jail for offering LGBTQ+ books to kids

Several LGBTQ+ inclusive books are seen on a library shelf in Alabama

An anti-porn group in Alabama is reportedly pushing for librarians to face jail time or a steep fine if they make LGBTQ+ books available to under-18s. 

The culture war inside America’s libraries is playing out yet again. This time, it has hit Alabama where conservative activists are demanding the removal of LGBTQ+ inclusive books and other ‘controversial’ materials, and falsely accusing librarians of pushing porn. 

Clean Up Alabama, a Prattville-based nonprofit organisation, says on its websites that libraries across the state are stocking “books intended to confuse” children about sexuality and “expose them to material that is inappropriate for them”. 

The conservative group states that it wants to remove “pornographic, obscene and indecent books” from sections of libraries geared towards minors. 

It also pushes for libraries to withdraw as members of the American Library Association (ALA), which it believes uses its “influence to push leftist progressive values” on “traditional communities”.

To accomplish these goals, Clean Up Alabama wants to ensure that libraries are no longer exempt from the state’s Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act, according to an email sent to the group’s newsletter subscribers, the Alabama Political Reporter reported.

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The law prohibits material that “depicts or describes sexual conduct, breast nudity or genital nudity in a way which is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors”. 

Violators face upwards of a $10,000 fine and potentially a year in jail. 

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However, the law currently doesn’t apply to “bona fide public libraries, or public school or college or university libraries, or their employees are agents”. 

Clean Up Alabama is keen to add LGBTQ+ content to the state’s legal definition of “sexual content”, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. The outlet reported this would have a trickle-down effect as it would bring queer books under the definition of content “harmful to minors” in Alabama. 

A picture of computers and shelves of books at an Alabama library to illustrate that several libraries across the state are facing backlash over LGBTQ+ inclusive books
The Alabama Library Association said library staff have faced “public harassment, verbal attacks and threats” because of a conservative campaign against LGBTQ+ books and other inclusive materials in libraries. (YouTube/WSFA 12 News)

The campaign comes after Pratville locals showed up en masse to the city council’s recent meeting to debate a contract that would have changed rules on how books are handled at a local library and threatened its funding. 

Some residents argued for the removal of LGBTQ+ books, but others pushed back that the inclusive books should remain on shelves for future generations. 

Prattville City Council members voted against the contract, which could have stripped the library of its autonomy, in a 4-3 vote.

Clean Up Alabama began the campaign for the contract as it wanted to get rid of so-called “radical” books for kids. 

Andrew Foster, the library’s current director, said the group’s campaign began after one family checked out a book called The Pronoun Book, by Chris Ayala-Kronos. 

According to Foster, the family took the book home before “realising it was an inclusive pronoun book, that it wasn’t just binary, he and she, but instead had some other representations in the book”.

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Governor Kay Ivey recently wrote a letter to the director of the Alabama Public Library Service, about concerns over the “environment our Alabama libraries are providing to families and children”

The Republican politician, who has hit out at LGBTQ+ rights before, said the “heart of the issue” was the “exposure of children and youth to inappropriate, sexually suggestive materials without adequate means of parental supervision”. 

The Alabama Library Association (ALLA), the state chapter of the ALA, denounced “all efforts to censor or restrict access to materials from any library” based on LGBTQ+ and other content. 

“[ALLA] has watched with concern the growing number of organised attempts at censorship and suppression in schools and libraries in the state of Alabama and across the country,” the group said. 

“Many of these attacks are targeting materials and programs that address race, racism, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. 

“In some instances, challengers have requested the destruction of material they deem contradicts their personal beliefs.”

The ALLA also noted an “increase in public harassment, verbal attacks and threats” to library staff and board members as a result.

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