Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Obergefell, et al v. Hodges, which made it clear that our Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees marriage equality, a community in Texas made headlines for both its clerk’s initial refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses and for demands made by certain members who wanted two LGBT-themed children’s books removed from the shelves of the public library.
Those two books are My Princess Boy and This Day in June.*
So far, the county library has declined to remove the two books, but the matter may be reconsidered later this month when the county’s board of commissioners meets.
Whatever those families may personally believe, why do they think it’s necessary to demand the removal of books that present a different viewpoint? Those who don’t like the messages in My Princess Boy or This Day in June can teach their own children to avoid those books without preventing other children from having access to them at the public library.
“But,” these book-challengers may retort, “What if those books are so irresistible that my children borrow them anyway, despite my yelling and screaming? How dare you try to brainwash my children with your dangerous, newfangled ideas!”
Well, as I discussed in Please Stop Parenting My Children, all I can say to those folks is this:
[E]xposure to many different ideas doesn’t brainwash people. It’s the exposure to only one idea or belief system that does. If the mere exposure to new ideas is enough for those old beliefs to crumble, then its proponents should stop to consider why their beliefs aren’t more persuasive. In my opinion, an idea that can’t withstand a fair debate isn’t an idea worth passing onto the next generation.
If you don’t like the ideas in a book–and trust me, there are books I don’t appreciate–then the solution is to present the other side in a logical, tasteful way.
Of course, there’s probably no use in trying to convince book-challengers that banning a book is more dangerous than exposing children to it. Let’s hope our judges don’t need any persuading on this point.
Our most recent case on this topic from our highest court, Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982), is only one year younger than I am and a mere plurality opinion (which means fewer than five Justices agreed on it).
But, for now, it is still our best indication of where our law stands on book banning. That means public schools and libraries, to which the First Amendment applies, may not remove books “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.” Pico, 457 U.S. 853 at 872.
That’s a good thing.
*See Monika’s Children’s Corner: Embracing Inclusion @ Lovely Bookshelf for reviews of three great LGBT-themed children’s books.
**Did you read Justice Scalia’s angry dissent in Obergefell? Would you like to hear April’s rendition of it @ The Steadfast Reader? I thought so. See here.