Rapides Library Review Board considers removing ‘unsuitable’ material

New member proposes including events, displays in prohibition

By: - December 15, 2022 8:49 am
several stacks of books

(Canva image)

ALEXANDRIA – An overflow crowd showed up Tuesday for a public hearing of the Rapides Library Review Board, whose newest member has proposed removing material on sexual orientation and gender identity from the public library system’s collections for children up to age 17. Events and displays at libraries could also be deemed unsuitable and not allowed.

Board member James Morgan, a Spanish language instructor at the local Country Day School, offered an amendment to alter the library’s Collection Development Policy. When asked for details and why he feels the current policy was insufficient, Morgan refused to answer before , during and after the meeting.

Rapides Library Review Board member James Morgan
Rapides Library Review Board member James Morgan. (Photo by Frances Madison)

“The amendment is pretty straightforward, and I probably won’t say much outside of what I present at the meeting,” Morgan told the Illuminator in his Dec. 10 response to an email. He did not respond to a subsequent email sent after the meeting seeking clarification on the amendment.

The review board is scheduled to vote on Morgan’s proposal Jan. 17.

If I can serve my country before I can read a book about a person like myself, I think we have problems.

– Remi Tallo

Morgan’s amendment states that the collections “shall not include materials containing obscenity, sexual content (including content regarding sexual orientation and gender identity), or any other material that is unsuitable for the children and teen collections. Library events and displays for children and teens shall be held to the same standard.”

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Of the 24 people who made public comments at the hearing, 17 spoke in opposition to the amendment. Some questioned Morgan’s intentions, saying the amendment as worded was overlyvague, unnecessary, unconstitutional, bigoted and hateful.

Stevie King, a 20-year-old queer woman, said she found the wording “pretty misleading.”

“Sexual orientation and sexuality are not exclusive to the LGBT community. You cannot pick and choose,” she said, challenging Morgan. “If you want you to specifically exclude queer resources and representation from the public, refrain from sugarcoating it.”

Remi Tallo, a local transgender woman, pointed to the logical incoherence of the proposed amendment, explaining that gender identity – like age, height, or weight – is not inherently sexual.

“My existence should not be seen as sexual content,” Tallo said.

“Do you know what I was doing at 17?” she asked. “I was at basic training instead of being in my senior year of high school. If I can serve my country before I can read a book about a person like myself, I think we have problems.”

Addressing Morgan, Tallo continued, “You can delude yourself into thinking you’re fighting a noble cause, but there’s nothing noble about hurting kids.”

Dr. Velva Boles , an Alexandria physician who has opened clinics in all 64 parishes, told the board she has provided care to young children and adolescents throughout her career.

“Children who have a sexual orientation know it early,” Boles said. “I am very much opposed to keeping information away from those who really need to know the truth.

Supporters of Morgan’s proposal called out material they described as “obscenity” and“pornography.” They condemned the practice of “shoving objectionable materials down children’s throats.”

They included Michael Lunsford, who has been involved in similar campaigns to remove LGBTQ materials from libraries in Lafayette and Livingston parishes. At Tuesday’s hearing, he insisted there is a problem on the shelves of reading rooms throughout the state.

“This is something that’s come up across Louisiana. I go to all these board meetings,” Lunsford said. “I know you guys are gonna find a compromise for this because that’s what you do.”

Along with Lunsford’s mission, Attorney General Jeff Landry recently launched a “Protecting Minors Tipline.” Members of the LGBTQ community have said their efforts amount to  a witch hunt.

“For librarians, that is really scary, and really concerning,” King said. “I definitely think they have an agenda, and they are trying to do it all over the state from what I’ve heard.”

About halfway through the tense hearing, Anthony Elie cut to the heart of the matter. He told the crowd he had run a daycare for more than 20 years.

“This is a real waste of time,” Elie said. “What are we here for? To make anger toward each other?”

“You say you’re a Christian …” he added, directing the comments to some of Morgan’s supporters. “If you’re a Christian, I don’t want to be too close to some of y’all.”

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Correction: This story was updated to correct Remi Tallo’s name. 

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Frances Madeson
Frances Madeson

Frances Madeson is a Central Louisiana-based freelance reporter with a special interest in accountability journalism.

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