The Temple Public Library is facing a dilemma after censoring certain viewpoints on a controversial promotional display. Backlash from the community culminated in a library board meeting Tuesday morning, one that was highly publicized and packed with almost three hours of public comments.
The problem began last June, when the library put up a table display with LGBT books and information in the kid’s section. “Be Inspired: Celebrate Pride Month” read one of the promotional posters. Local parents were troubled that such material was placed in the children’s area, yet the library excluded any display with alternate views. Texas Scorecard reported on a similar incident in August, when the State Preservation Board at the Texas Capitol rejected a display request from the Texas Pastor Council.
Concerned Christian Citizens (CCC), a group located in Temple, asked the library to remain neutral on controversial political issues, or present both sides if it were to make a public display. The request sparked a heated debate that garnered attention across the city and even the nation.
CCC began gathering signatures for a petition urging city officials to reconsider their policy, while a pro-LGBT petition on Change.org started circulating as well. CCC collected over 900 signatures; the LGBT one around 2,900. While the CCC’s petition required a local address in order to be representative of the community’s voice, the pro-LGBT digital one only required a name and email and showed signers not only from outside Temple, but also from outside the state and the country.
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) also got involved, sending an open letter to the library. They urged the board to “represent diverse viewpoints that reflect the community they serve,” yet also said that “no single display can possibly contain all viewpoints on a particular issue; nor is there any requirement that it should.” The letter then gives examples of when a library should not need to provide equal treatment:
“A public library may choose to erect a display of books celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month and need not also showcase books about classical music… a display celebrating Black History Month need not include books representing racist views; a display celebrating Women’s History Month need not include books about the achievements of men; and likewise, a display celebrating LGBT Pride Month need not include books arguing the immorality of non-heterosexual orientations.”
According to the NCAC, requesting equal representation on taxpayer-funded promotional LGBT displays is equivalent to supporting racism and sexism.
Ironically, the NCAC claims that not having an LGBT promotional display is censorship; yet their solution is to censor the views they don’t agree with, even justifying the censorship with false equivalences.
The question remains: Should taxpayer funded entities—whether it is a public library, or the Texas Capitol—be in the business of prohibiting displays involving views they do not agree with?
The City of Temple is currently formulating their display policy and is expected to release it in the next couple of months.