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Madison councilman: My vote will always be for funding the library

Huntsville-Madison library patrons once again debated the library’s policies during the public comment section of a Madison City Council meeting.

District 3 Councilman Teddy Powell
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Last week, multiple individuals spoke out in a public comment session at the Madison City Council meeting to urge the council to consider withholding funding to the Huntsville Madison County Public Library unless it changes its policies.

Several more individuals showed up Monday night making similar requests, as well as some opponents who supported the libraries measures in place to appropriately place books.

Following the public comment session, District 3 Councilman Teddy Powell made clear the council’s role in the library and his position on continuing to provide funding.

“There are two things we do: we appoint someone to the board, and we fund or not fund the library,” Powell said. “And I don’t think either group is for not funding the library—or I hope not. And if you are that’s fine, but I’m telling you, my vote is always going to be to fund the library.”

Powell faced Democrat Marilyn Lands in the special election for House District 10. Lands’ victory flipped a red seat to blue, and gave Democrats their first gain in the Alabama Legislature in a decade.

APR wrote two weeks ago that the residents who spoke were affiliated with Moms for Liberty, which drew criticism from resident Carissa Callan, who emailed APR to state that only one of the people who spoke was officially part of the group. Callan and Rachel Homolak are not formally affiliated with the group but have been associated with the group in recent pushes to challenge transgender and sexually explicit books in children and youth sections of the HMCPL. 

Homolak, who is currently facing a defamation suit in Missouri for her campaign against a transgender librarian, spoke again at Monday’s meeting, reading aloud an opinion by Autauga-Prattville Library attorney and 1819 News columnist Laura Clark comparing Read Freely Alabama to a group promoting alcoholism for children. 

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Most of the speakers were not from Madison, but said they were patrons of the HMCPL system. At the last meeting, Emily Jones represented Moms for Liberty; this week it was Laura Pearson. Pearson argued that the group is not a “fringe group” but simply concerned parents in the community. The national organization has been dubbed an anti-government extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Pearson also need the group’s success in formally challenging the book “Let’s Talk About It,” a sex education book designed for teenagers which she said was moved to an adult section through a formal reconsideration of materials process.

Powell said that the system obviously works, and there is therefore no reason for the council to get involved outside of its historically limited role. 

Few of the books mentioned by name by challengers in Madison have actually contained sexually explicit content. Those that do, including “Let’s Talk About it” and “It’s Perfectly Normal,” are sex education books. “The Big Bath House” contains cartoonish illustrations of nudity of women and girls participating in traditional communal bathing at a Japanese bath house, but the nudity is nonsexual in nature. Callan told APR that the graphic novel “Fine: A Comic About Gender” includes sexual content including people of multiple genders lying naked together, but APR has not been able to independently verify that content at this time.

Several challenged books such as “When Aiden Became a Brother” are challenged solely for addressing gender transitioning in children—a topic that may be controversial but is not inherently sexual.

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

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