In July of 2022, concerns over LGBTQ Pride displays at some of St. Tammany Parish's branches were discussed during public comment at a library board meeting. Around 40 people spoke in favor of the displays with only one voice of dissension. This person alleged the pride display supporters were bussed in by the library from outside of St. Tammany because she couldn't imagine so many LGTBQ people and allies living in our community. She spread this misinformation to local religious organizations, and what started as complaints about pride displays morphed into attempts to ban books (including LGBTQ works, classic literature and romance novels ) and fire the Director of St Tammany Parish Libraries as well as the library board. Some of the pro-censorship group have even called for the director’s arrest.
This group is well organized but ill-informed. They believe there is a nation-wide conspiracy of "pedophilic Marxist librarians" hell-bent on grooming unsuspecting children and possibly turning them queer through children's books. At first, this appeared to be the unhinged fantasies of a few far-right conservatives, but this movement in our Parish has recently gone more mainstream.
On November 28, RPEC (Republican Parish Executive Committee) met to discuss book banning and offered those calling for censorship a platform, helping to legitimize these outrageous claims. This movement is dangerous. They march under the banner of protecting children, but it's clear that their true motivation is attempting to silence the voices of the LGBTQ community and anyone else who doesn't share their personal convictions. The pro-censorship crowd is currently working to replace the Parish Council and President with their supporters and ultimately fire the library director and any board member who won't be their puppet. Most recently, an attorney with the pro-censorship group presented the Parish Council with a proposed ordinance calling for the formation of a Library Accountability Board (LAB) which would have oversight on the books available and policies made within our libraries. This is already the job of our council-appointed Library Board. Make no mistake, they will not stop at banning books. They will use their power to influence as many aspects of Louisiana politics as they can. They are organized, well funded and have the support of powerful politicians and organizations such as Michael Lunsford’s Citizens for a New Louisiana, a dark money 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which hopes to defund libraries, create puppet boards and ban books his organization deems inappropriate in all 64 parishes.
UPDATE: Two new Louisiana bills that codify the ability to ban or censor books have been passed by the State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Follow this link to the analysis of each bill.
Official St Tammany Library Items:
- St Tammany Parish Library Challenged Materials Policy
- List of Book Titles Challenged Aug 23, 2022 - May 22, 2023* Note that this list now includes links to redacted PDFs of the Statements of Concern filed for each title.
- July 27 - Nola.com - Pride month displays at St. Tammany libraries draw crowd of supporters to library board meeting
- Aug 30 - NPR - Conservative Christian groups are targeting Louisiana libraries
- Aug 31 - NPR - Local libraries have become a major political and cultural battleground
- Sept 22 - Education Week - A School Librarian Pushes Back on Censorship and Gets Death Threats and Online Harassment
- Sept 28 - NPR - The Strain Of Censorship On Public Libraries
- October 26 - WDSU - Slidell residents push for library to remove books they claim are explicit
- October 29 - Nola.com - Culture war clash at St. Tammany Parish Library as book complaints mount
- Nov 9 - Slidell Independent* - Mayor ‘shocked’ at content in books
- Nov 9 - Slidell Independent* - LaRocca: We are working on a plan
- Nov 9 - Slidell Independent* - Library pressure builds
- Nov 10 - Nola.com - St. Tammany Library creates new cards for kids, amid flap over books about sex, LGBTQ topics (This outlines the policy changes the library has made in response to the complaints about children having access to adult books)
- Nov 14 - The Advocate - Michael Lunsford, Citizens for New Louisiana, pushing conservative presence across the state
- Nov 14 - Ringside Politics Podcast - Guest CONNIE PHILLIPS, ST. TAMMANY PARISH LIBRARY ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECTS (skip to 3:02:21 for interview)
- Nov 18 - Slidell Independent* - New library book policy ‘fixes absolutely nothing’
- Dec 1 - Town Talk - Louisiana attorney general creates 'protecting minors' tip line to report library books
- Dec 2 - Vice - Louisiana Launches Tip Line to Accuse Librarians of ‘Sexualizing Children’
- Dec 2 - Illuminator - Librarian fears AG Landry’s tip line will create ‘weird witch hunt’
- Dec 2 - Nola.com - Jeff Landry wades into library controversies, suggesting need for law on "sexual" material
- Dec 4 - Nola.com - St. Tammany Parish library system at center of furor over children's access to explicit material
- Dec 5 - Louisiana Voice - AG Landry establishes indecency tip line; he should set up bigotry tip line, but predators don’t prey on their own kind
- Dec 6 - Nola.com - Letters: Vilifying people because they are lesbians? That defines 'hate'
- Dec 6 - Nola.com - Letters: Jeff Landry, ever in pursuit of attention, creates crisis for political use
- Dec 7 - Nola.com - Letters: Libraries are parents' greatest allies
- Dec 8 - Nola.com - Lanny Keller: How Jeff Landry uses your tax dollars to run for office, against libraries
- Dec 8 - Illuminator - Anti-censorship group in St. Tammany seeks to join frontlines in library battles
- Dec 11 - 64 Parishes - Warning: This Article Could Be Banned
- Dec 12 - Nola.com - Letter to the Editor: Leave library collections to the professionals
- Dec 12 - Louisiana Voice -Rapides is latest library censorship target; Tuesday meeting to discuss removal of books but it’s really all about freedom
- Dec 13 - Nola.com - Letters: St. Tammany library crusade is straight out of the Dark Ages
- Dec 13 - Nola.com - Hundreds mobilize against censorship in St. Tammany
- Dec 13 - WGNO - St. Tammany are pushing for LGBTQ+ books to be on library shelves
- Dec 14 - Fox 8 - St. Tammany residents discuss fate of transgender teen graphic novels at library meeting
- Dec 14 - Illuminator - St. Tammany sees showdown over library books
- Dec 14 - Nola.com - St. Tammany Library Board sequesters 83 books, pending content review
- Dec 22 - The Guardian - The battle to keep LGBTQ+books in Louisiana libraries
- Dec 26 - Truthout - Louisiana Communities Organize to Defend Libraries From Far Right Censorship
- Dec 29 - Big Easy Magazine - Conservatives Push Library Censorship Agenda Over Holiday Weekend
- Jan 4 - Illuminator - Fight over St. Tammany library books escalates to include law enforcement
*We do not view The Slidell Independent as a reputable news publication but we've included their articles here as they speak to the propaganda being used by the pro-censorship group to achieve their goals.
St Tammany Parish Library Accountability Project (the St Tammany pro-censorship group) Info and Materials:
- Presentation created by St. Tammany Parish Citizens for Age Appropriate Literature for presenting at RPEC meeting. (Initial Draft of presentation presented at RPEC meeting Nov 28, 2022)
- St Tammany Parish Library Accountability Project Facebook Page
- Proposed Ordinance presented to the Parish Council Calling for the formation of a Library Accountability Board
Citizens for a New Louisiana (the special interest group fueling the pro-censorship movement across the state)