Last edited: December 05, 2004

Wichita Falls, TX: Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate

Attacks On The Freedom To Learn Online (AFLO) Issue 2.4, October 14, 1998

An e-mail newsletter chronicling censorship incidents and attempts in public school classrooms and libraries.

People For the American Way Foundation

Two children’s books that were held hostage by a local minister are once again accessible to the public at the Wichita Falls, Texas public library. The books, Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate, were purchased by the library in response to patron requests for reading materials that discuss homosexual parents in a "tasteful, positive light." The pastor of a local church, who led the fight to have the books banned, explained his objection to the books: "We object to sodomy because it is against the law, and is responsible for the greatest epidemic in history. AIDS is a gay disease that has spilled over into our society." The minister decided that the only way to keep the books out of young hands would be to keep them himself. He later wrote a check for $54 to pay for the books and for the fines incurred, arguing that keeping the books was a form of civil disobedience to protest the spending of tax dollars on "filthy" books.

The local paper editorialized against the actions of the minister, prompting him to preach about the controversy in his Sunday sermons, which are also televised on a local station. He compared banning the books with censoring material on pedophilia and the censorship of cigarette advertising. "What’s the difference between that ad censorship and a lifestyle that kills tens of thousands of people?" He also threatened the City Council that they would face defeat in the next election unless they removed the books from the library. He then asked members of his congregation who would pledge to write letters in support of the books’ removal to raise their hands, reminding them, "You can’t lie in church." Eventually, a vote was held among the deacons at his church to request that the City Council remove all books from the library that "promote and/or sanction homosexual behavior." The Wichita Falls City Council does not actually have any power to order the library advisor to remove materials from the library’s collection, although it could institute a policy defining acceptable reading materials.

The newspaper ran letters to the editor on both sides of the controversy for over two weeks. A former Wichita Falls resident and pastor wrote, "As a Christian, I find it reprehensible that any other Christian would want to suppress the information found in books that validate the imago die (image of God) into which all people were created." Another letter criticized the pastor’s arguments: "Last time I checked, the tax dollars of gays, lesbians and civil rights activists go toward purchasing books as well as the dollars of the religious fundamentalists." And another letter questioned the pastor’s authority to impose his views: "I have no problem with parents censoring their own children’s reading material, but I don’t want [the pastor] setting the standard for what all of the children in the community can read." Letters supporting the removal of the books centered on the assertion that those who disapprove of homosexuality should not have their tax dollars spent on books that condone it, the belief that homosexuality was against God’s will and state law, and that the two books in question were recruiting tools for the homosexual movement. One woman wrote, "The books in question deserve some sort of censorship since they are designated as Ħsupport tools’ they could inevitably influence individuals that would not have gone astray." In addition, two half-page paid advertisements were also run in support of banning the books.

During the review process, the minister said he would revise his original request to have the books removed from the library outright, and would accept a "compromise" in which the books could be kept in an adult-restricted area or behind an employee’s desk. However, the library’s administrator made it clear that these were not options she would consider, as she was of the opinion that it would unreasonably compromise the privacy of those who wished to look at the books.

The board’s decision was announced at a meeting attended by about 90 citizens. The meeting was reportedly marked by shouts and grumbles from the crowd; one woman even had to be escorted to her seat by a police officer after she took the floor out of turn. At the beginning of the meeting, there was a fifteen-minute period of public testimony on the books. The majority of the board voted to leave Daddy’s Roommate in the children’s section, although some recommended moving it to the juvenile section. Heather has Two Mommies, because it discusses artificial insemination, was recommended to be moved to the juvenile section or to the adult bookshelf, although two of the nine board members supported leaving it on the children’s bookshelf. After the vote, one board member defended her votes to keep the books, saying, "I am a mother. I am a grandmother and a great- grandmother. I feel I can help my children understand the lifestyles of other people. And, may I say, I am a Christian. Believe it or not, I am." The library administrator’s final decision paralleled the suggestions made by the board. She decided to move both books to the juvenile section, which is intended for older children. She explained that moving the books to the adult section would invite children to search among other adult titles.

The campaign to ban the books promises to continue. Ironically, the effort to remove the books has resulted in an increase in copies available to the public. The library was swamped with requests for the books, which meant that according to policy, more copies had to be purchased. In addition, by the end of the standoff, citizens supportive of the two books had donated 22 copies of each.

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