During a 90-minute public comment session at the Sept. 12 Fairhope City Council meeting, at least four local Bayshore Christian School students spoke against certain books they deemed inappropriate.
But a recent Facebook post suggests the students were reading material from Foley resident Stephanie Williams, who led the charge against LGBTQ and “sexually explicit” books in Foley.
APR has obtained a screenshot of a Facebook comment from Williams taking credit for the comments.
“The kids were great, had tears hearing them reading my material so persuasively and adding their personal touch — a brilliant move by Carol,” Williams posted last week.
The comment was left on a post in the Faith Family Freedom Coalition of Baldwin County Facebook group that included a link to the Youtube video of the council meeting.
Although the comment doesn’t identify “Carol” beyond a first name, former Fairhope library board trustee Carol Wilson spoke against the books as well, referencing the “BookLooks” book rating site founded by a former Moms for Liberty member. Fairhope resident Rebecca Watson created a Baldwin County chapter of the group, labeled as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in August.
Fatih Family Freedom Coalition is led by Fairhope attorney Brian Dasinger.
One student told the council “When it reaches the point that these books are becoming visually explicit, or seeming as though they belong in a high school anatomy book more than 4- to 8-year-olds, we have a problem.”
The student referenced several “children’s books” that she considered sexually explicit and “borderline pornographic” including Genderqueer, Flamer, Let’s Talk About It … and many others. Each one of these books is recommended for 14- to 18-year-olds, not 4- to 8-year-olds. High school students who would theoretically be viewing a high school anatomy book would likely also be 14 to 18 years old.
The student also said removing the books does not violate the First Amendment because the books could still be purchased from bookstores or on Amazon.
“If you so badly want a book that (contains graphic violence, expresses disrespect for parents and family, is sexually explicit, exalts evil, lacks literary merit or is unsuitable for a particular age group), then you won’t have any problems driving a little further or paying a little extra money to get them that material,” she said.
“There was a time when adults who gave minors access to obscene materials were determined to be sexual predators subject to criminal prosecution,” said another Bayshore student. “So what constitutes obscene or pornographic material—or in the vernacular, smut?”
The student then spoke about“the Miller test,” a three-prong system to determine what constitutes obscenity and pornography.
“Some of the books that are currently in the library may, potentially, fail this test,” he said.
He listed books he thought may fail the test: Boy Toy, Doing It, The Female of the Species, The Handmaid’s Tale: A graphic novel, The Hate U Give, Last Night at the Telegraph Club “and many others.” These are all books targeted by Clean Up Alabama and other groups in the state. It’s unclear why the student, or Williams, thinks these books would fail the Miller test for obscenity, as that test requires the books to be pornographic as a whole.
Update: Stephanie Williams contacted APR to deny that she wrote speeches for any students, saying instead her comment was based on the students using words that she had written that were distributed to public officials.
“That letter to Foley has been shared far and wide and apparently a few sentences were used by some students and an adult who, as far as I know, crafted their own position statements for the Fairhope meeting,” Williams said in an email to APR. “No one went ‘off script’ as I did not script anyone’s statements, I am acquainted with a few of the adults who appeared before the Fairhope City Council but none of the children. I am unfamiliar with the Christian School but I applaud them and the parents for these brave children.
“To be clear, I did not orchestrate any activities or statements by any parties who appeared before the Fairhope City Council last month, Williams wrote to APR.
Williams’ email did not clarify what she meant when she wrote in her Facebook post “a brilliant move by Carol” immediately after noting that students were “reading my material and adding their own personal touch.”
Correction: Because APR cannot independently verify which students may have read material written by Williams, and because it is not clear which portions of those speeches may have been based on Williams’ writing, APR has edited the story to remove any inference that a particular speech is connected to Williams.