Down the road from me in a Houston suburb, a minister has petitioned the city council to purge 75 fantasy books from the public library.
Pastor Phillip Missick of King of Saints Tabernacle, a Messianic church, filed a complaint with Austin Memorial Library, Cleveland’s public library, asking that many fiction books on vampires, demons and the supernatural be purged. He says he was stunned to find the young adult section full of books like “Blood Promise,” “Twilight,” and the “Vampire Knight” series.
“This is dark. There’s a sexual element. You have creatures that aren’t human. I think it’s dangerous for our kids,” said Missick.
This wearies me. I hope I don’t need to explain why I think this is wrongheaded, fearful, oppressive, and ignorant. It’s against the spirit of free speech and inquiry. It wants to shut down imagination for the sake of dogma. I do want to remind everyone that well into the 21st century, based on sectarian doctrine, people still try to restrain what the American public can read.
That’s why The American Library Association still has an annual Banned Books Week. It’s why the First Amendment Center has an entire section on the history of book banning in the United States. It’s a shameful history. Harry Potter isn’t the only work that gets challenged. So do books by Langston Hughes, and Kurt Vonnegut, and Chaucer, and Aristophanes.
Holt said he is not calling for a ban on books and feels the responsibility should be on the parents to censor what their children read.
“The word ‘censorship’ is not an ugly word. If you don’t censor what your children see, hear and read, then guess what, your child is going to be spending a lot of time with Pastor Holt later on in life dealing with twisted-up and torn-up lives,” he said.
I absolutely agree that it’s my responsibility as a parent to know about and nurture my kids’ reading. So: hands off the library, Pastor Holt. I don’t want you anywhere near its books, or telling my family what we can and cannot read.