Despite vigorous opposition from pastors and church supporters, both the county and city governments maintained they are legally barred from intervening in a planned event at the Ben May main branch of the Mobile Public Library.
Drag Queen Story Hour, sponsored by Rainbow Mobile, is set to take place at noon on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the downtown library. As part of the event, drag queen Khloe Kash will read two stories to children ages 3 to 8, as well as participate in a movement exercise and an arts and crafts project.
The Rev. Fred Wolfe, pastor of Luke 4:18 Fellowship, told both the Mobile City Council and the Mobile County Commission that the event helps to promote the “totally not appropriate” LGBTQ “lifestyle,” and that public spaces should not be used for such an exercise.
“Using the library gives it credibility,” he said.
Wolfe and others also objected to at least one of the books that will be read to the children. The book, “Stella Brings the Family,” and is about a girl who brings her two dads to a Mother’s Day event at school. The second reading will be from the book “Rainbow Fish.”
“They do have an agenda,” Wolfe said. “They’re saying that an alternative lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle and the Bible teaches that sex outside the union of a man and a woman is a sin. Silence means agreement and we’re not accepting of the alternative lifestyle.”
At the commission meeting on Monday, Aug. 27, Woodridge Baptist Church Pastor Mack Morris said his issue was about “protecting our children.”
“We recognize it as the opening salvo in a clearly defined cultural war,” Morris told commissioners. “This event is only one of dozens, carefully financed and politically planned, which are taking place all over the U.S. and Canada. I am convinced that this event represents opening the door to many other abhorrent behavioral lifestyles which threatens to undermine the moral fiber of this country.”
Mobile Public Library System Director Scott Kinney said the event is a First Amendment issue and the library has a policy to allow all groups the right to use its meeting rooms during operating hours. He said Rainbow Mobile is an outside group and no taxpayer money would be used, aside from the cost of electricity, which would be in use anyway.
Elected officials agreed the governments could not intervene, while some said they agreed with the sentiment of the speakers.
Councilman Fred Richardson said that while he agrees with Wolfe, the city cannot police something that is morally wrong.
“It’s not legally wrong,” Richardson said. “There is no law against reading to children; I don’t care who’s doing the reading. The city can’t enforce morals. If I told you a lie; the city can’t arrest me for lying.”
Richardson also mentioned the Comic Cowboys’ Mardi Gras parade from a couple of years back. He said many in the community felt comments made on posters displayed as part of the parade were inappropriate and offensive. At the time he was told the First Amendment prevented the city was intervening. He said it’s the same with this event.
Commissioner Jerry Carl said, “There’s not a lot we can do as a County Commission.” However, he did seem to favor taking a harder look at the library’s funding going forward.
“I am going through the budget,” he said. “I’m going to see if I can figure out a way of cutting some funds to see if we can make our thoughts understood because, if there’s money being wasted on such events, maybe we need to try to figure out if there’s too much money being spent.”
Councilman Joel Daves said he would not “abandon the principles Founding Fathers fought and bled for.” He said those who oppose the event have the right to assemble and show their disagreement.
Council Vice President Levon Manzie said he agreed with his colleagues that there’s a difference between being morally wrong and breaking the law.
“The best way to keep this from happening is to keep the children at home,” Manzie said. “If you keep children at home then they won’t be able to see the drag queen and won’t be able to hear the book being read. I don’t disagree with you, but the law is open to everyone.”
The opposition might not stop with speakers at public meetings. Mobile resident Kimberly Wright-Knowles said she knows of at least two groups planning to demonstrate outside the library. She has planned a counterprotest to show love and support for the local LGBTQ community.
Wright-Knowles said she has witnessed firsthand the effects that a lack of support can have on a member of the LGBTQ community. When her oldest son came out four or five years ago, Wright-Knowles said the local home-school community was quick to shun not only her son, but the entire family.
“The home-school community is very difficult because it’s primarily evangelical,” she said. “We took a huge hit. We got hate mail and lost friends.”
While it was difficult for the family “the first few years,” Wright-Knowles said the community has evolved a bit.
“It’s important to show love and support because so many members of that community have been rejected by their families and churches,” she said. “It makes a huge impact on them personally.”
She said she hopes the counterprotest attracts more people than the planned protests.
Lagniappe reporter Jason Johnson contributed to this report.