Wyoming librarians under fire for books on sex, LGBTQ – The Journal
Wyoming prosecutors assess whether to lay criminal charges against public library officials for storing books, some say obscene in children’s and youth sections
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – Books on sex, LGBTQ issues and how to have a baby have public library workers in deeply conservative Wyoming town facing possible lawsuits after angry local residents fight each other complained to the police that the material is obscene and does not belong in the sections for children and adolescents.
For weeks, Campbell County Public Library officials have faced a local outcry over the books and for programming a transgender magician to perform for young people, an act called off amid threats against the magician and staff. from the library.
The books are “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, “How Do You Make a Baby” by Anna Fiske, “Doing It” by Hannah Witton, “Sex is a Funny Word” by Corey Silverberg and “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy ”by Andrew P. Smiler, according to Susan Sisti, a local pastor who has raised concerns about these and other books in the library.
“It’s really easy to walk into the library and look around a bit and find a dirty book that shouldn’t even be in a public library,” said Sisti, pastor of Open Door Church in Gillette. “These books are absolutely appalling.”
Now, after a complaint is filed with the sheriff’s office, prosecutors are re-examining the case. They will also seek the appointment of a special prosecutor to weigh in before deciding whether to press charges, County Prosecutor Mitchell Damsky said on Friday.
Investigators did not contact library officials about the case, leaving them unsure of the books that potentially caused legal problems at the library, library executive director Terri Lesley said.
Told to the list provided by Sisti, Lesley said library officials looked into a complaint about “This book is gay” and determined that it belonged to the library’s teen room. The decision was being appealed to the library board while library officials reviewed outstanding complaints about the other four.
In total, the library handled 35 recent complaints about 18 books, she said, a situation she said seemed quite unusual for a public library.
“It’s unexpected,” Lesley said. “We’re trying to be the force of reason, trying to resolve these issues using the policy we have in place – look at these books and do our due diligence.”
LGBTQ rights group Wyoming Equality said it is up to parents to decide when their children should have access to such books.
“Maybe the answer is never. If it never is, that’s fine. But can you make this choice for other families? said group executive director Sara Burlingame.
The dispute over the books “got contentious and out of hand” when it could have been resolved by putting the books among the adult materials, said Damsky, the prosecutor.
“Personally, as a parent, I find the material to be just inappropriate for children and disgusting. But as a lawyer, I have sworn to uphold the Constitution and that is why we treat it with a fine tooth comb. “said Damsky. .
Sisti worked with Hugh and Susan Bennett, who visited the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, fearing the five books violated state child sex laws. Sheriff officials reviewed the complaint and referred the case, which was first reported by the Gillette News Record, to prosecutors.
“It is very difficult to imagine how a child who is sexually immature, physically immature, if there is a reasonable purpose for exposing him to sexual behavior which goes far beyond his physical and mental and emotional and intellectual capacities to understand, ”said Hugh Bennett.
He called the books “hardcore child pornography.”
“This book is gay,” Sisti pointed out, includes illustrations of male and female genitalia and descriptions of oral and anal sex. But children’s access to all kinds of material on the Internet could be relevant to the case, Damsky suggested.
“What 9 year old kid today can’t access Pornhub or whatever they want you know what I mean?” Damski said.
The library has already faced protests and threats last summer over plans to portray a transgender magician. The magician canceled the show due to the threats.
The fury over the magician and the books prompted Wyoming Equality to speak to local authorities about the threats and offer support to library staff. Local leaders had left Burlingame hoping that resentment over the library would abate, she said.
“It seemed like there was some sort of opportunity to curb this and can we talk to each other,” Burlingame said. “It looks like the train has jumped off the rails.”
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