Conservative Agenda Coming to Philly Soon

By Randy LoBasso
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 11 | Posted Aug. 10, 2010

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Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Anthology was banned in Burlington County, N.J.'s public libraries

Lots of the right’s “holier than thou” ideals are studies in hypocrisy, and a recent case involving a public-library system and some fringe anti-homosexuality groups takes the cake. And banning books is just the tip of their agenda.

Back in April, Burlington County, N.J., banned the book Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, edited by Amy Sonnie, from its public library shelves. The School Library Journal once named the anthology one of the best books for high schoolers, and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) calls the book “the first creative resource by and for queer and questioning youth of every color, class, religion, gender and ability.” It was banned by Burlington County Library Director Gail Sweet despite the lack of any formal challenge to the book’s existence. Sweet says she made the decision after Beverly Marinelli—reported by the Inquirer as a “grandmother” and member of Fox News pundit Glenn Beck’s 9.12 Project—complained to Sweet about the publication’s existence.

Emails recently obtained by the New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union show Sweet and library commission member Patrick Delany quick to comply. On May 3, Sweet sent a message to library staffers, asking: “How can we grab the books so they never, ever get back into ccirculation (sic).” Sweet later wrote by email to Marinelli: “As the copies that are checked out return, we will take them out of circulation.” Sweet would cite “child pornography” as the reason for her executive decision (which allowed her to go over the head of Island Trees v. Pico, a U.S. Supreme Court decision asserting that “local school boards may not remove books from school libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books”).

The National Coalition Against Censorship also found that Delany’s name “appeared on and then disappeared from a local 9.12 group member list earlier this spring.”

The history of conservative voices against Revolutionary Voices and publications like it is long as it is often infuriating. Groups such as Mission: America and the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) have been decrying the contents of Revolutionary Voices since its 2000 publishing.

(Oh, and if NARTH sounds familiar, it’s because George Rekers, who used to be on the board of directors, was recently caught in a Florida airport with a male prostitute he’d rented from NARTH’s website doesn’t mention the Rekers controversy but does inform us of its annual national conference, which will take place right here in Philly in November.)

The recent firestorm of reactionary conservative assemblies has brought this controversy into the mainstream and into our own backyards.

Bill Haney, the leader of 9.12’s Burlington County chaper, insists that the so-called personal-responsibility group has no official stance on the book and that the banning was the independent work of concerned citizens.

“The media put two and two [9.12 and censorship] together and said, ‘OK. Well, it’s the right-wing radical wingnuts coming in and claiming the right to censorship,’” says Haney, “when in fact that wasn’t the case. It was several people taking exception to this particular book and [the media] fostered the idea that it was a conspiracy on the part of conservative people.”

But Beck, the group’s founder, has consistently attacked and called for the firing of Kevin Jennings, former director of the GLSEN and current assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Beck took issue with Jennings’ policies of promoting tolerance toward homosexuals in public schools, among other now-defunct conspiracies.

Controversy over Revolutionary Voices was first propagated by Linda Harvey, founder of Mission: America, a nonprofit ministry that states “All that can save [America is] … the blood of Jesus Christ.” Harvey cited Revolutionary Voices in her 2002 article titled, “The World According to PFLAG [Nonprofit group Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays]: Why PFLAG and Children Don’t Mix Unless you happen to like child abuse (sic),” which mainstreamed criticism of the book.

Along with banning books that have already been approved by GLSEN—“A growing, well-funded pro-homosexual organization which advocates the practice of dangerous sexual behaviors by children and adults,” according to Mission: America—these conservative groups are dedicated to the elimination of gay-straight alliance clubs within high schools and restructuring sexual education curriculums. Mission: American believes sex-ed should teach that the homosexual lifestyle “may well reduce life expectancy” and “involves high levels of promiscuity.” It also describes schools’ anti-homosexual-bullying policies as the equivalent to “a totalitarian regime of mental re-programming.”

Another Linda Harvey article, titled “A ‘Safe’ Place to Learn About Homosexual Sex,” warns parents of community centers where children often go after school to keep out of trouble. “Your sixth grader would be welcomed there by adult volunteers and staff, and allowed to socialize with high school and college age ‘gay’ youth,” she writes.

Banning books is not listed on 9.12’s official mission statement. Nor are anti-homosexual policies of ending tolerance in schools a part of Beck’s nine principles and 12 values (9.12’s Haney tells us he’s never even heard of NARTH). These issues just fall under the same conservative umbrella.

The fact that a librarian put the goals of NARTH and Mission: America above official policy is a sign of events to come—sex-ed reform, the elimination of gay-straight alliance groups and after-school community organizations—should the legitimization of Mission: America and NARTH persist.

For individuals so apparently enthralled with the Constitution, it’s especially hypocritical to participate in censorship at the local governmental level. If Burlington County allows these bans to stand, this is just the beginning. It could set the precedent for the rest of these bigoted agendas to be carried out in communities around the country.

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Comments 1 - 11 of 11
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1. SafeLibraries said... on Aug 10, 2010 at 10:31PM

“This story has been out for a while. I fail to understand why the media continues to publish false and misleading information. I spoke with and reported on my conversation with the library director long ago. No book banning occurred, neither has any occurred in the USA for about half a century. Removing a book for failure to meet the library's book selection policy is not book banning. The NCAC is an organization that actively promotes porn. The ACLU is an organization that threatens local communities with legal threats it knows are legally invalid. Has Philadelphia Weekly [PW] reported that?”

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2. SafeLibrariesContinued said... on Aug 10, 2010 at 10:35PM

NARTH is exposed for having a leader who "was recently caught in a Florida airport with a male prostitute." Does PW report that an ACLU leader who opposed filters in public libraries named "Rust-Tierney confessed that he had received over 850 pornographic images of children as young as four years-old. Police also discovered a six-minute video which depicted small children being sexually brutalized set to music by the band Nine Inch Nails. He ordinarily viewed the disgusting images on a computer located in his 10 year-old son's bedroom." PW. If this is an example of "news and opinion," then a "conservative agenda coming to Philly soon" is the least of Philly's worries.

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3. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 06:52AM

“LoBasso....this is the most biased article against conservatism I have read in a long time. You also have copied wrong facts from other news reports. The Director Gail Sweet did follow procedure. Only a patron ( public)needs to fill out forms,a librarain does not need to fill out forms for herself. Sweet decided to start the removal process upon hearing of the RV High School issue. Glen Beck had NOTHING to do w/ this,you twerp!!!!!!”

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4. CommonSense said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 07:19AM

“I am disappointed in the closing conclusions on this article however not surprised given the source. This is a common sense moral obligation to protect our children not a conservative agenda conspiracy.

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5. so help me god said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 04:06PM

“if anyone possibly thinks that a collection of essays written for teenagers questioning their sexual identity is the same as child porn, you are a fucking idiot. got me? a FUCKING IDIOT. gail sweet was "protecting our children"--from WHAT? you think if a straight kid reads an essay written by a gay person the kid'll "turn" gay?!? is that it?! my god, you people are such fucking morons! gail sweet removed the book from library shelves because it dealt with homosexuality in a positive manner. that is a violation of freedom of speech. and if you think glenn "i'm a-fucking-nutjob" beck isn't homophobic, you are utterly hopeless. good day to you all.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 07:38PM

“To.....So help me God ! I hope HE does help you,you are obviously sick”

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7. Dee said... on Aug 12, 2010 at 05:43PM

“I have refrained from a posting to the various articles concerning this issue, but feel I must say this--although Bill Haney states the local 9/12 group had no formal position concerning the book banning, there are many e-mails amongst the members that describe their plans to ban this book and others on the glsen list in burlington county, although these e-mails have all been removed from the site. Statements from the Gateway Pundit and the Public Advocate of the United States, Eugene Delgaudio have also been posted on the site in reference to the group's concern over lgbt rights.”

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8. Parent said... on Aug 13, 2010 at 05:28AM

“Perhaps Venuto, the emails were a convenient venue/way to contact each other ? Don't forget--there are no restrictions to the 912 public web--you and any public were able to go in and read and they did ! . In fact, one could register under a fake name and join in the comments.
I believe the parents should be able to make determinations regarding their children,NOT LIBRARIANS”

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9. Any Sane Parent said... on Aug 13, 2010 at 06:26AM

“What Ms Venuto cannot bring herself to admit is that any sane parent, once they actually READ the book, would say of course it was inappropriate to have in Ms Venuto's high school library where it was exposed to minors. She will not say it because SHE was responsible for having it in there and worse wanting to keep it there. Instead she copied a bunch of emails and ran for cover for her actions to the ACLU. And she still hides there today behind the fear mongering threats of the ACLU and the hate mongering liberal press like this personal attack-piece so-called "news" article. It is Ms Venuto that should be re-assessed by her high school superiors for her strange zealot raging and continuing lack of good judgement in HER job. Her superiors should be limiting her future library duties to just "restacking the shelves' where she can no longer enforce her "anything goes" book philosophies on minors over the opinions of Any Sane Parent.”

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10. CommonSense said... on Aug 13, 2010 at 06:48AM

“This is not a gay/straight issue. This is not a 912 issue. This is about appropriate content at the right age group. This material was not suitable for people under the age of 18. Period. Full Stop. Take a look at the pictures in the book and ask yourself "do you want your kids to see this?".”


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