Saturday, Aug 15, 2020
search SGN
Saturday, Aug 15, 2020
click to go to click to visit advertiser's website



Speakeasy Speed Test

Cost of the
War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)



click to go to advertisers website
"She's Jerry Falwell with a pretty face."
"She's Jerry Falwell with a pretty face."
Sarah Palin suggested banning books; Alaska pastor takes on Gov. Palin

by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

"Jerry Falwell with a pretty face," is how the Rev. Howard Bess describes Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Bess should know; he is a Baptist minister and the author of one of the books Palin reportedly tried to ban from the public library when she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

In an interview with SGN this week, Bess warned, "She is bad, bad news for Gay rights and Gay interests. I hope the Gay community will become much more aware and much more active."

Bess is now pastor of the Church of the Covenant in Palmer, Alaska, near Wasilla in Alaska's Matanuska Valley. His 1995 book Pastor, I am Gay was at the center of controversy when Palin first became mayor of Wasilla in 1996.

As is now well-known, shortly after Palin became mayor, she had conversations with the city librarian about removing books from the library. Palin's hometown newspaper, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, reported on December 18, 1996 that Palin brought up the subject of banning books on two occasions - once just after she was elected mayor on October 1, 1996, but before she took office on October 14, and again in more detail on October 28. Palin served as mayor of Wasilla for two terms, 1996-2004, before being elected governor of Alaska.

At the time, Palin told the Frontiersman that the conversations were merely "rhetorical," but two specific titles have emerged as the books at issue. One is Bess' book, Pastor, I am Gay. The other is a 1991 children's book Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite. Both are Gay-themed.

Pastor, I Am Gay was the result of theological reflections that began in the 1970s when Bess was asked to counsel a closeted Gay man in his Santa Barbara congregation. Daddy's Roommate, about a young boy whose divorced father now lives with his male partner, was one of the first children's books to portray Gay relationships in a positive light.

Bess believes that Palin and the church she attended at that time, the Wasilla Assembly of God, were behind a campaign to get his book removed from local bookstores and the Wasilla library. "I'm as certain of that as I am that I'm sitting here talking to you," Bess said. "This is a small town. We all know each other. People in city government have confirmed to me what Sarah was trying to do."

On its release in 1995, Bess's book Pastor, I am Gay was immediately targeted by fundamentalists including Palin's church. Shalom Christian Books and Gifts, the one local store that agreed to carry the book, was soon forced to drop it after the owner was barraged by hostile phone calls. Bess himself was fired by the Frontiersman newspaper after seven years as a religious columnist.

While Palin has denied any intentions of censorship, her predecessor as mayor, John Stein, and her own mayoral campaign manager, Laura Chase, are quoted in a New York Times article published September 13, 2008, recalling that Palin specifically told them Daddy's Roommate did not belong in the library.

Bess believes the incident reveals something significant about Palin's character. "The book is not important," Bess told SGN, "it's just one indication of the mindset of Sarah Palin."

"She is part of a very, very rigid fundamentalist church," Bess continued. "Actually she's changed churches now - one is Pentecostal, one is dispensational, but both are Bible literalist. Sarah Palin has to be understood in the context of Christian fundamentalism. She is a dualist. She sees everything as a battle between good and evil, and the lines are drawn very, very clearly."

Pentecostals believe that the Holy Spirit communicates directly with individual believers, often manifesting in the form of jumping, dancing, fainting, exclamations, or "speaking in tongues." Dispensationalists typically believe that social conditions inevitably decline as the "end times" draw near. Almost all dispensationalists reject the idea that peace and prosperity can be achieved by human institutions, and they are hostile to secular governments. Bible literalists believe that scripture is literally - as opposed to figuratively, symbolically, allegorically, or metaphorically - true in all respects.

"There's no difference between her and a Muslim fundamentalist," Bess warned. "It's the same black and white thinking."

"You can see this in her decision-making process. She chops off heads," Bess said. "In certain situations you might say that's admirable, she cleaning things up. She has a lot of support up here, but what happens if you're Gay? Would she hire a Gay person? Would she allow one to work for her?"

"Both the churches she's been involved with, especially the one she goes to now, believe in the whole end times, Jesus-will-return-in-our-lifetime scenario. That's her mindset. It's very much like James Watt," he said, referring to Ronald Regan's Secretary of the Interior. "Why bother protecting the natural world if we're not going to be on Earth much longer?"

Bess expressed fears that these views would color Palin's perception of international relations. "What happens in the international framework?" he asked. "You take this person and put her on the world stage where she has to deal with very diverse people. & You can see, in that interview [with ABC's Charlie Gibson] she said it was possible we would go to war with Russia!"

While Bess' worldview differs from that of Palin and her church-mates, he places himself squarely in the evangelical tradition. "I identify as a born-again evangelical Christian in the American Baptist Church," he says. "However, the world of Baptists is very diverse. My understanding is not shared by the majority of Baptists."

Bess's Alaska congregation is affiliated with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, an organization of LGBT-friendly Baptist churches. Among Seattle churches, Bess says he identifies with his "dear friend" the Rev. Tim Phillips at University Baptist Church and with First Baptist Church on Capitol Hill.

In response to media inquiries, the City of Wasilla has issued a document stating in part, "We have no records of any books being 'banned or censored' ever." The document also details citizen "challenges," or requests to remove books from the library. Since 1986, the library has received only five challenges: Angel Dust Blues by Todd Strasser; Bumps in the Night by Harvey Allard; Heather has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman; America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart; and The Abduction by Mette Newth. According to the City of Wasilla, all remain on the shelves.

The McCain campaign was also contacted by SGN for comment. McCain spokesperson Rick Gorka referred to a story which debunks blog allegations that Palin tried to ban a long list of books, some of which had not even been published at the time she was mayor of Wasilla. Asked about the two specific titles in question - Pastor, I am Gay and Daddy's Roommate - Gorka did not reply, nor would he say whether McCain or Palin believed that Gay-themed books should be included in public libraries.
picture - above:pastor Howard Bess

bottom: wasilla library

click to visit advertiser's website

click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
Seattle Gay Blog post your own information on
the Seattle Gay Blog

: | what is RSS? | Add to Google use Google to set up your RSS feed
copyright Seattle Gay News - DigitalTeamWorks 2008

USA Gay News American News American Gay News USA American Gay News United States American Lesbian News USA American Lesbian News United States USA News