A local prosecutor in Michigan is threatening to use a law aimed at catching predators during sex crime stings to target a public librarian if she does not remove an LGBTQ-themed book from the shelves. The librarian remains steadfast in her opposition to his demand.
Amy Churchill, the director of the Lapeer District Library in a small town in Michigan’s thumb, says she’s undeterred by local county prosecutor John Miller’s threat to charge her with a felony, Bridge Michigan, a local publication, reports.
Miller demands that she take the book Gender Queer: A Memoir off of the public library’s shelves.
He’s said the content is inappropriate for children, as many conservative-led counties and school districts nationwide have deemed the work. In particular, critics argue the artwork inside the book is too graphic for minors.
The prosecutor is using part of the criminal code often connected to sting operations where children fall prey to predatory adults. It’s a violation to entice anybody under 16 “to commit an immoral act, to submit to an act of sexual intercourse or an act of gross indecency or to any other act of depravity or delinquency,” according to the law.
The graphic novel by Maia Kobabe describes the coming-of-age of a nonbinary person and contains sexually explicit illustrations. Gender Queer was the most banned book in school libraries in 2022, according to PEN America, a group that advocates for writers, and the most challenged book, according to the American Library Association.
“I have heard if he could, he’d arrest me. He’s trying to intimidate us,” Churchill told Bridge Michigan. She said she’s “not hard to find” and that if the prosecutor wants to charge her, she’s “in my office working for the patrons and staff of the Lapeer District Library Monday through Friday.”
Advocates have taken issue with a government official threatening a librarian.
“Unfortunately, the situation in Lapeer is not unique: officials are using threats of punishment all over the country to intimidate librarians into censoring books,” PEN America’s director of the U.S. Free Expression Program, Kate Ruane, tells The Advocate.
“There are legitimate channels to object to specific books in libraries, but obviously, using the office of a county prosecutor to threaten criminal charges against a librarian should be off the table,” Ruane adds.
In August, another Michigan library faced severe backlash for defending its librarian’s decision to keep Gender Queer on the shelves. Last fall, a campaign to defund the Patmos Library was successful when voters rejected the library’s funding.
Republicans have sought to ban books in public libraries and schools nationwide if the publications were for, by, of, or about LGBTQ+ people. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been criticized for policing thought and information in the state with his “don’t say gay” law, which has resulted in removing books from shelves and classrooms statewide.
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