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Dothan church hosts panel on “obscene” library books

Republican Rep. Rick Rehm was among those panelists and claimed books are being placed in libraries “to indoctrinate our children.”

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A five-member panel gathered at Ridgecrest Baptist Church Thursday night for a panel discussion they entitled “Clean Not Obscene” discussing the perception that libraries are pushing pornography on minors.

State Rep. Rick Rehm, R-Dothan, was among those panelists and claimed that the books that have been challenged across the state are being placed in libraries “to indoctrinate our children.”

“This is from the top-down, not the bottom-up,” Rehm said. “They’re placing these books in your library so that your children can see them and read them, and most importantly, without you even knowing it.”

Rehm has been involved in numerous meetings at the Alabama public Library Service as these topics have been pushed, as well s participating in another similar panel at Calvary Baptist Church in Dothan.

Christopher Calvin Reid, co-host of the far-right The Daily Controversy radio show in Huntsville, moderated the forum and previously moderate the forum at Calvary.

Reid raised concern about the growing number of LGBTQ youth while the percentage of young evangelical Christians declined. He said 20 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 identify as LGBTQ+ now compared to about 6 percent a few years ago.

“This is a real problem, that kids are getting pushed into this,” Reid said. “You don’t have a 400 percent growth naturally; you get that because of social pressure.”

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Dothan doctor Calvin Reid recalled when he was “8-, 9-, 10-years-old watching cartoons, not being exposed to sexual materials.” He then went on to talk about the North American Man-Boy Love Association, a group that openly advocates for pedophilia and lowering the age to consent to sex, implicating a tie to the library books in discussion but not directly drawing any connections.

John Eidsmoe, senior counsel at Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law in Montgomery, said pornography is “chipping away at the foundation” of God’s law in society and repeated a common argument from book challengers that libraries are not required to add any particular books to their collections and therefore could avoid these books that they find to be objectionable.

He also voiced his support of a bill filed by Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, to allow governing bodies to remove library board members by a majority vote.

Ridgecrest Pastor Paul Thompson said Christians are a major contributor to the problem, “allowing (themselves) to be marginalized.”

“We’ve allowed our voices to go silent,” Thompson said. “Either we’ve been passive, or we’ve been indifferent; or maybe we just didn’t know … At what point as Christians will we say enough is enough?”

Lynn Miley, associate pastor at Westwood Presbyterian Church, said “those of us who have actually examined these books in the library contend that they are pornography” and correctly defined pornography as “sexual subject matter such as pictures, video or text that is intended for sexual arousal and excitement.”

However, the panel overall seemed to continue a conflation between books with sexual content and books with LGBTQ content. Further, almost none of the books APR has reviewed that have been challenged in libraries across the state appear to qualify as pornography with many sexually explicit passages detailing abuse or recounting experiences in the author’s own life. A few books could potentially be considered as having pornographic passages, although the books would not be considered pornography when taken as a whole.

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The idea that these books constitute pornography has been a key distinction as book challengers go on to cite studies of harmful impacts of pornography, which are not directly dealing with the challenged books but a whole other set of media that the average person would more likely recognize as pornography.

The panel actually started with a 10-minute video from Joan Landis, a licensed mental health coordinator, about how “sexually explicit materials harm minors,” in which she states that introducing children to pornography is a grooming tactic. Book challenging groups including Clean Up Alabama and Moms for Liberty have previously stated librarians are grooming children with the inclusion of challenged materials.

Many eyes will be on the State Legislature this session to see how lawmakers respond to the situation. 

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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