Christian group sues for right to burn gay teen novel

June 17, 2009

A Christian group in Wisconsin is actually suing for the right to engage in a public book burning to destroy copies of a book they consider to be “explicitly vulgar, racial [sic], and anti-Christian”:

The offending book is Francesca Lia Block’s Baby Be-Bop, a young adult novel in which a boy, struggling with his homosexuality, is beaten up by a homophobic gang. The complaint, which according to the American Library Association also demands $120,000 (£72,000) in compensatory damages for being exposed to the book in a display at West Bend Community Memorial Library, was lodged by four men from the Christian Civil Liberties Union.

First there was another group that just fought to move the book into the adult section of the library, which calls itself the West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries. The Christian Civil Liberties Union, the West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries–aren’t those exactly the kind of Orwellian names you’d expect pro-fascist, anti-free speech organizations to call themselves?

Their charging that the book’s physical presence in their local library caused them mental and emotional distress and that its alleged derogatory language “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.” Wow! That must be some book to actually put lives in jeopardy. And since this book has been around for 15 years now, I would love to hear about all the lives who were destroyed by its mere existence.

The first group, the West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, claims they wish. . .

“. . .to protect children from accessing them without their parents’ knowledge and supervision.”

The old “protect them from themselves” gambit–a fascist classic. Fortunately, the library committee stuck to their guns by keeping the books in the young adult section. That’s when the other group decided they wanted to burn the books.

One of the “derogatory” words they object to ironically is the use of the word “faggot,” which they claim is derogatory to all males. Now I agree that even I find the word “faggot” when used in the derogatory sense to be offensive even though I’m not gay, however, their intended burning of this particular book is  a greater offense. I find book burning a thousand times more offensive. And given that this is apparently a pro-gay book, I’m fairly certain that those who find the word most offensive have no serious objection to its use in this book. The book also uses the word, “nigger,” which of course incited many a fascist to burn copies of Huck Finn.

Now I haven’t read the book and I don’t know how these words are used (though regardless of how they’re used, it doesn’t justify burning the books), but I’m fairly confident that the “derogatory” language argument is no more than an tactic or an excuse to justify their public burning of a book that they simply don’t like because presents homosexuality in a positive light. Further, as with so many similar cases, the context of how the offending words is used is not discussed at all, and context is everything. For instance, this very blog entry uses both the words “faggot” and “nigger.” However, at no time will you find me use these words in a derogatory manner. Presumably, we’re all adults here. And rational thinking adults can use these words in an intellectual discussion about the words themselves without having to resort to childishly referring to them as “The other F word” or “The N word.” Context is key. Was the author of the book actually using these words for the purpose of disparaging and margionalizing a minority group or was the other using those words in order to promote a message of tolerance for such groups? My guess is that it’s probably the latter.