School board member sworn in on pile of banned books to troll Moms for Liberty

A Moms for Liberty member with her hands on two piles of books.

A newly appointed Pennsylvania school board president has stuck it to her Moms for Liberty opponents by being sworn in not on the Bible, but a stack of books, whose titles have been banned in parts of the US.

Democrat Karen Smith officially took up the role at Central Bucks School Board on Monday (4 December), during a ceremony in which she took her oath on a pile of six books that have been opposed by Republicans for their LGBTQ+ themes.

Smith was one of five Democrat candidates who beat opponents endorsed by the notoriously anti-LGBTQ+ group Moms for Liberty, who have been waging war on school boards across the US.

Following the vote in November, the Pennsylvania school district switched from a 6-3 Republican majority to a 6-3 Democratic majority.

“I’m not particularly religious,” Smith told local press following the ceremony. “The Bible doesn’t hold significant meaning for me. Given everything that has occurred in the past couple of years, the banned books, they do mean something to me at this point.”

Among the books were The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George Johnson, Mike Curato’s Flamer, Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta, and Night, an autobiography by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

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These, and several other titles, have been targeted as “sexually explicit” titles by the right-wing group WokePA. Previous Republican school board members opposed the books last year, as part of its library policy.

‘There’s nothing in there. Not even a kiss’

Democrats have suspended the former board’s policy.

Smith told the Philadelphia Inquirer that, following her and several other Democratic appointments to the board, the books were “definitely not going to be reviewed at this point.”

While she originally joined the school board in 2015 as a Republican, Smith switched parties in 2021 after noticing a sharp rise in right-wing homophobia from groups such as Moms for Liberty.

“I thought, ‘I can’t be part of these kind of actions’,” she said. “The Republican Party has lost its way.”

Commenting on WokePA’s decision to add Lily and Dunkin to its ‘inappropriate material’ list, Smith said she was shocked to find that there was nothing explicit in Donna Gephart’s book.

“I get to the end, and there’s nothing in there,” she said. “Not even a kiss.”

She described the book as a “sweet story about friendship – one student in the book is transgender. That’s it”.