Clean Up Alabama, the group supporting book challenges at libraries across the state, hosted a “roundtable” Thursday in Prattville.
Although a roundtable usually means numerous perspectives are involved, Thursday’s panel included two Clean Up Alabama leaders, 1819 News president Bryan Dawson and local pastor Daniel Weierbach.
ALGOP chairman John Wahl, who also serves on the executive board of the Alabama Public Library Service, had originally been advertised as part of the panel, but he did not attend Thursday.
The discussion continued the group’s trend of focusing on children’s books containing “gender ideology” while also continuing to implicate that there is pornography available in children’s sections of libraries.
“All over the state, the library board says it’s up to the city council, the city council says it is up to the library board and I’m just like: ‘Why won’t one of you cowards get the freaking porn out of the children’s section,’” Dawson said, to a few “amens” from the audience. “Someone, please, just do that. What is wrong with you?”
While multiple city councils in the state have said it is the library board’s role to decide where to shelve books—including Prattville, Fairhope and others—APR is not aware of any library boards passing the buck on to the city council. In fact, members of Prattville’s library board repeatedly voiced opposition to the council usurping that power.
There also has been a lot of talk of pornography in sections for minors, but few books that have been challenged across the state come close to meeting the definition of pornography.
At one point, Dawson said he would actually rather have Playboys accessible to children in the library than “what’s there” now.
“I think what’s there is worse,” Dawson said. “Because the intent of what’s there is to turn children who shouldn’t even be thinking about sex into not only thinking about sex, but thinking about same-sex attraction; and then also, ‘maybe I’m the wrong sex, maybe I need to cut my genitals off.’ I’d take the Playboy every time.”
Dawson’s outlet has been covering the library challenges since the beginning, picking up the coverage in Prattville since before Clean Up Alabama or Clean Up Prattville existed.
Since the beginning, 1819 News has made it clear they support the challenges, even before the messaging began to shift from challenging LGBTQ issues to challenging “sexually explicit content.”
Dawson said he tells people they have to be “plainspoken” about their perceived issue with the libraries.
“The problem is, in the children’s section of a public library, there is absolute rank, filth and wicked material, nudity, penetration—specifically images, pornographic—but also what’s written with the pure intention of getting children who have no business even having these thoughts to either transition, getting into transitioning which is mutilating their genitals or having their breasts cut off—“ Dawson said.
“All of that is a lie,” said a man in the audience, who had earlier identified himself as a former Mobile library director.
The interruption set off a tense exchange between the man and Dawson—members of the audience were not supposed to speak during the event.
“We have the books back there,” Dawson told the man.
“I can give you a—“ the man said.
“Please stop talking,” Dawson said. “Why are you talking?”
“There’s been a lot of misinformation, and people in this audience are hearing that misinformation,” the man said.
A deputy ultimately told the man he would have to quiet down or be removed from the room.
The audience of about 40-50 people appeared fairly evenly split between supporters and opposition.
Sarah Sanchez, a CUA member who served as facilitator, said she respected the people in attendance who disagreed, and posited the possibility of a debate.
“I will just say, we’re not opposed to having a—I thought it’d be pretty cool to like, have an actual debate,” Sanchez said. “I’m not sure if people can handle that, to be honest, because we got a lot of emotions running high.”
Dawson said the problem starts with Christians looking for the rapture instead of engaging with culture, and criticized teachings about the tribulation generally.
He also blamed communists for working Marxist teachings into American culture.
“Any cultural shaping institution was completely taken over by Marxists,” Dawson said. “And so you have the public education system, higher education, all the way down in kindergarten, and now, public libraries. And then you have Hollywood you have every media, news—all of these things have been completely hijacked and the Democrat party now.”
Dawson also said that there is a “myth” of neutrality that cannot be achieved and that America should be a Christian nation.
“There’s going to be one religion and one culture that is ruling over others, for 200 years, that’s what it was in America was Christian,” Dawson said.
The discussion also touched on the recent APLs memo disaffiliating from the American Library Association and the state library service’s departure from the ALA definition of censorship.
Of course, that memo was based on orders from Gov. Kay Ivey, who had expressed a lack of faith in state librarian Nancy Pack in how she has responded to the controversies.