Saying he's waiting to see what the city of Kerrville does, Kerr County Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz said Tuesday that he hasn't changed his mind about his outrage at the display of LGBTQ+-themed books at the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library.
Letz may be waiting a long time because the Kerrville City Council made it clear that it's standing behind the library staff after they drew ultra-conservative outrage for a banned book display. For years, the library displayed banned books, but increasingly those books feature LGBTQ+ characters, sexual health and race, which have drawn the ire of conservative activists.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Harris said that this matter wasn't going away, relating a story that it was the No. 1 topic of conversation among people he spoke with at a Mountain Home Volunteer Fire Department fundraiser.
Like previous meetings, the court faced calls to end an interlocal agreement with Kerrville that swaps library services for animal control. Both sides have a 90-day out on the deal, yet there appears no settling the impasse between the two over the controversy.
Activists said the library staff, headed by Library Director Danielle Brigatti, was pushing an agenda from the American Library Association, which a lesbian and admitted Marxist now leads. However, the ALA's position is to foster a more inclusive environment — more respective to the changing American society.
There were also calls for Brigatti's dismissal and prosecution of librarians for exposing children to "pornography." Brigatti's dismissal is unlikely considering her outright vote of confidence from City Manager E.A. Hoppe, who has the discretion to hire and fire department heads.
Then, there was a broad definition of pornography or obscene material. Those speaking said pornographic materials were shown to children. In a Facebook post, Zach Sumrall, a Kerrville chiropractor, implied that two men had milkshakes and another man was giving another man a taste of food was an example of what was within easy reach of children.
Sumrall's post failed to mention that the book he chose to look at was called "Chef's Kiss," is a romantic novel written as a comic book with no sex scenes. It also was not banned, and someone had to find that book from the stacks and place it in the children's section — as he claimed.
The challenge for anyone is the definition of obscenity. The Supreme Court precedent relies on Miller vs. California — the landmark 1973 decision that defines obscene material. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger issued these instructions in obscenity cases:
- Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
- Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law;
- And whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Defining community standards is challenging because the Supreme Court's ruling is more a national standard than a local one. It is a controversy that plagues Supreme Court to this day, and Miller was a 5-4 decision.
Of the 29 challenged books, 10 featured LGBTQ+ themes, stories or characters. The display also featured "To Kill A Mockingbird," "Of Mice and Men," "Harry Potter," and "Captain Underpants." The Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library staff used an ALA-banned books list that ran the gamut of challenges from race to the occult. In the case of "To Kill A Mockingbird," shifting historical interpretations of Harper Lee's seminal title.
One of the books presented had a graphic sex scene — "Gender Queer." However, that book is not available in the children's section.