Someone opposed to children’s books with an LGBTQ focus appears to be protesting by checking out every book in a Pride Month display at a Columbia-area library.
“To protect our children and the community, we have checked out the books in the pride display. We plan to keep these books checked out until the library agrees to remove the inappropriate content from the shelves,” read a letter left Thursday on a Richland Library branch Pride Month display table where several books had been removed.
A national political advocacy group claims it is facilitating the protest. Similar protests by the organization have been reported across the U.S.
The nonprofit called Catholic Vote launched a “Hide the Pride” campaign at the beginning of June, which is recognized nationally as LGBTQ Pride Month. The group’s goal is to “reclaim” public library spaces meant for children by removing LGBTQ children’s books from libraries.
“It’s June! Do you see rainbow-trans-BLM flags everywhere? Including in your public, taxpayer-funded spaces? We do. And we are meeting the challenge head-on,” reads a press release announcing the campaign.
The nonprofit provides a form letter for parents identical to the one left at the Richland Library branch. The one left at the local branch was unsigned.
A post on Twitter decrying the Richland Library incident has received national attention, with more than 2,000 retweets as of 1:00 p.m. Friday. Even some celebrities have noticed. Actress Patricia Arquette replied to the post writing, “I’m so sorry that’s ridiculous. Love will win.”
The tweet read, “My middle grade Pride Month display was stolen tonight and this threatening letter was left by the thief. I’m so upset,” and included photos of the form letter left on the table and a table decorated for Pride Month with empty book displays.
As of 2:50 p.m., the Tweet author had restricted who can see their account.
Tamara King, equity and engagement officer for the Richland Library system, said the books were in fact checked out in-line with the library’s policies and were not stolen.
She added that the library will put more books on display for Pride Month. She did not say at which library location the incident occurred, citing staff safety.
”As an organization, we support, celebrate and honor the lives our LGBTQ+ customers and staff and we will continue to amplify their voices through our materials, displays, programs and inclusive policies,” King said. “Our collections, services and programming reflect the broad range of viewpoints and cultures that exist in our community. We intentionally provide safe and welcoming spaces for all of our customers.”
Catholic Vote also posted on Twitter about the incident, sharing the initial post with the caption “We’re so proud of our followers! #HidethePride.”
That organization provides a step-by-step plan geared for parents to follow to remove Pride Month displays from local libraries. That plan includes advice to “assign one person from your group to be on the ready to film for the duration of your time at the library, in case any staff give you trouble,” as well as a warning to review the library’s check-out policy “to follow the letter of the law, so to speak.”
It also provides a list of 16 books in particular it says parents should remove from public libraries.
King said the library is continuing to investigate the incident.
The State has reached out to the person who posted the original Tweet, as well as Catholic Vote for comment.
This story was originally published June 17, 2022 1:44 PM.