Recent news of efforts to ban mostly LGBTQ-themed books at Samuel’s Public Library in Front Royal highlights how comfortable a small fringe of homophobic individuals are with jettisoning the guarantees of the First Amendment to satisfy an agenda to marginalize their neighbors.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, I know how important it is for children and the adults raising them to see their families reflected in the collection of their local, publicly funded library. As a chair for the Warren County Democratic Committee, I know that our community has many people who believe that the First Amendment is sacred.

For those not following the story or getting it in drips, dribbles and half-truths, know that the library policy is to ensure that their collection reflects the diversity of the community and that they are following established protocols to meet requests for reconsideration fairly. They also will kindly help any parent to find materials suitable for their kids.

You may hear that there are materials in the young adult section that have explicit passages. The young adult category covers the ages of 12-18, so obviously there are themes that are appropriate for someone old enough to serve in the military but that are absolutely too mature for a kid hardly out of elementary school. It is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to monitor and approve what their kids are reading.

If I could offer some advice to my neighbors and friends, it would be to never let anyone try to convince you that only some stories have a right to be told. If I could advise our elected officials, I would suggest that your constituents need you to be brave enough to say that the freedoms of the First Amendment are more important than cosseting the fears of an ill-informed and xenophobic few. Political affiliation aside, most people cherish their library and respect the right for people to pick and choose what works for them, knowing other choices may have value for other families. To the leaders of the religious community behind this effort, you would be improved to set an example of how to live peacefully within a pluralistic society that does not always see things as you do.

To the staff and volunteers at Samuel’s Library — and at all public libraries — I say simply thank you. You should be proud to provide a wealth of materials that reflect the diversity, curiosity and hunger for knowledge and pleasure that animates the human spirit.

Paul Miller is a native to the Shenandoah Valley, small business owner, and current chair of the Warren County Democratic Committee.

(1) comment

Brad Skipper

Well said, Paul. The book banners are actually afraid of freedom. Freedom to read, freedom to develop one's sense of identity, freedom to define one's sense of being. Their repeated efforts to shape the rest of us must end.

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