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Lesbian Notions by Libby Post
Banning books by intelligent design
One of the movies I rented when I got my first VCR (actually, it was a SONY Beta recorder - remember those?) was Julia. The story was based on a chapter from Lillian Hellman's memoir Pentimento.

The title character was a childhood friend of Hellman's who became a leader in the resistance to Hitler's reign of persecution, censorship, and murder. The scene that has stayed with me all these years is the massive bonfire in the courtyard of a European university. Not a typical college celebratory bonfire, this conflagration was composed of books and papers from the school's library and the offices of its academics.

In the film, Hitler Youth reveled in ransacking the school and thought nothing of throwing academic freedom into the fire. When one of the professors tried to get in their way, he was thrown over a railing and killed.

Today we have our own version of Hitler's reign of terror on academic freedom and thought. It's the radical Christian right's persistent crusade to ban books from public and school libraries, and its unfathomable drive to integrate "intelligent design" into our children's classrooms.

The list of examples is endless. Just check out the American Library Association's website (www.ala.org), the section about their annual "Banned Books Week" (Sept. 23-30), to get an incredible sampling of the stupidity going on in today's schools and libraries.

In Tacoma, Wash., the school district banned The Geography Club, a Gay-themed book about high school bullying and tolerance, because parents complained that the protagonist, a Gay teen, hooked up with another Queer student online and that they eventually met face to face.

Tacoma School Superintendent Patti Banks told the two parents who requested the book be removed from the school library, "We want to send a strong, consistent message to all our students that meeting individuals via the Internet is extremely high-risk behavior. To the extent that this book might contradict that message, I have determined it should not be in our libraries, in spite of other positive aspects (e.g., a strong antiharassment theme)."

Gee thanks, Patti. You'll buckle to the concerns of two parents while depriving hundreds of students of the book's real message - that bullying and harassing LGBT students isn't acceptable.

In response, the book's author, Brent Hartinger, who hails from Tacoma, said, "The reason Gay teens are drawn to the Internet is that's a safe place to explore their identity without being harassed or bullied. It's ironic my book would be pulled for this reason, contributing to this atmosphere of silence and Gay intolerance."

If you find yourself on the Web, bored with the Gay chat room you're in, you may want to click your way to www.TeachClean.com - Parents Protecting the Minds of Children. This Fayetteville, Ark.-based site explains that it doesn't want to pull books from the shelves, just give parents control over what their kids can read.

While these folks have a problem with any book that deals openly with sexuality, hetero or homo, all you have to do is click through the site and you'll see just how obsessed they are with books that paint a positive picture of LGBT lives. The bottom line for them is rather succinct. In big bold letters, the site declares, "For those who didn't already know, now you know what Diversity Means!!! The promotion of the homosexual agenda!!!"

If banning books wasn't enough for radical Christian right parents, they also want to integrate intelligent design (ID) into biology curricula all over the country. No, intelligent design isn't a new show on HGTV. It's the push to bring creationism back to our schools - teaching that the world started with Adam and Eve (certainly not Adam and Steve) and that Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a theory and never proven.

The drive for intelligent design lost some steam when, after the Dover, Pa., school board instituted it, a U.S. District Court judge threw it out. In handing down his decision, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III wrote that "overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory." Jones found intelligent design failed as a scientific theory because it can't be tested. Lucky for Dover's students, their parents found that the school board failed as citizen educators and voted all the members who supported ID out of office last year.

Despite the ruling and the rout, bills to mandate ID as part of a state's biology curricula continue to be introduced. In Oklahoma, a bill has passed the state Assembly and now heads to the state Senate. A leading radical Christian right wing nut, New York State Assemblyman Dan Hooker (who thankfully is not running for re-election - instead he's serving his country in Iraq) is the sole sponsor of an ID bill. Since the state Assembly is controlled by the Democrats, the bill will go absolutely nowhere.

If only that were true for the rest of Hooker's compatriots across the country, who have found our library shelves and our school rooms to be avenues for their unique brand of censorship. Like the Hitler Youth who burned those books in Julia, the radical Christian right also thinks it has God on its side.



Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached care of this publication or at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com.

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