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Pasco parents, religious leaders urge school district to drop library group

They said the American Library Association goes against Christian beliefs and supports a socialist agenda.
 
Hundreds of attendees browse booths during the national convention of the American Association of School Librarians on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 in Tampa. Some Pasco County residents want the school district to end any financial support of the association and its parent, the American Library Association.
Hundreds of attendees browse booths during the national convention of the American Association of School Librarians on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 in Tampa. Some Pasco County residents want the school district to end any financial support of the association and its parent, the American Library Association. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Nov. 21, 2023|Updated Nov. 22, 2023

LAND O’LAKES — A group of Pasco County residents and religious leaders on Tuesday urged the school board to cut ties with a national group that has fought against book censorship and bans.

Organized by a Christian Family Coalition of Florida regional director, the group argued that the district should not use any taxpayer money to support the American Library Association, whose leader has referred to herself on social media as a “Marxist lesbian” who believes in “collective power.”

Pastor Troy Pederson of Church of Brotherly Love Outreach noted that the school district might not spend much on the organization. But he argued it should “abstain” from appearing to back the association, which he said supports drag queen story hours and explicit books about LGBTQ+ issues.

“They go against Christian beliefs,” parent Kirsten Krauer told the board. “I hope as a parent that you could sever ties with them.”

Their request comes amid a national push in conservative and Republican strongholds to ostracize the American Library Association and its subsidiaries, such as the American School Librarians Association, which met in Tampa in October.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration recently barred public library systems from participating in grants from the association, Politico reported.

The Hernando County Commission stopped paying dues to the organization in October, with commissioners saying they did not want to support indoctrination, according to Suncoast News. The Citrus County Special Library District took that step in August.

Earlier in the spring, the Hillsborough and Manatee county commissions considered similar moves.

The American Library Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, its officials have denied having a political agenda, stressing that theirs is a nonpartisan group focused on supporting libraries and free speech.

Pasco County School Board members did not respond to the dozen or so people who spoke on the topic during their meeting. They referred questions to Superintendent Kurt Browning.

Browning said he would investigate the issue further after Thanksgiving break. He took issue with accusations that the district allowed drag queen reading hours to occur in schools, calling that suggestion “ludicrous.”

He added that if anyone wants to challenge materials in the schools, whether recommended by the American Library Association or not, they can do so.

“There is a process that people can follow,” Browning said. “If they don’t like something, it starts at the school level and works its way up.”

John Labriola of the Christian Family Coalition is helping guide the statewide effort to defund the association. Labriola has been a Citrus County activist who ran for Inverness City Council in 2022. Before that, he left Miami-Dade County under a cloud for writing a slur-laden column about transgender people.

He said that even if schools have not participated in things such as drag shows, they should not use their money to support such activities in other places.

“We want to make sure the children are protected from these kinds of influences,” Labriola said. The American Library Association promotes such ideas, he said, and any penny from taxpayers to the organization “is going toward their agenda.”

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