Supporters, opponents of Drag Queen Story Hour meet at library board meeting

Members of the Library Board of Trustees listened to a full hour of comment from many of the 65 people who attended Tuesday's meeting.

Posted: Aug 27, 2019 9:49 PM
Updated: Aug 27, 2019 11:14 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) -- A board of trustees meeting  for the St. Joseph Public Libary was probably its most attended in nearly 20 years.

At issue, a planned Drag Queen Story Hour program scheduled to be held at the downtown branch next month.

"We expected some passion, but passion is good," said Michael Cadden, board member.

A full meeting room of about 65 people showed up to voice their opinions both for and against the story hour, which library staff say is part of a "Celebrate all of us" series, that also includes programs on blindness, American Sign Language and Down Syndrome.

However, some felt pushing a program including a drag queen on young children crossed the line.

"This is not for all of us. It is for certain people. This is an agenda you want to move forward with," said one attendee.

However, others said that providing a diverse program was exactly what was needed.

"This representation matters especially for groups that are often made to be invisible, marginalized and discriminated against," said Carla Willis, representing PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Board members listened to a full hour worth of debate. Those supporting Drag Queen Story Hour applauded programing promoting inclusion and diversity. Those against the program cited bible verses, the inappropriateness of drag queens for young children and even that the library was promoting pornography.

Board members were patient listening to everyone. However, they said the mission of a public library is to provide venues for people of all views.

"Many different groups use the library for meetings. We don't get into the discussion of political agendas or ideologies," Cadden said.

Among those speaking was Central High School freshman Sarah Jones, 14, who said she was a member of the local Rainbow Coalition. She was there speaking with her father sitting right behind her.

"I'm very lucky I'm living in a loving home with parents who are trying to learn. I'm very grateful and it's very cool.," Jones said.

Other communities that have had Drag Queen Story Hours have had similar debates as to the one held durinig the board of trustees meeting Tuesday night. However, also like others, minds are difficult to change on the issue.

"A 3 year-old child doesn't even know how to pee by themself. Then we're going to introduce them to someone who is a little confused themself," said one women against the program."

Every person speaking out against Drag Queen Story Hour was countered by another in support.

"I've encouraged tolerance and inclusiveness," said Bill Luce. "What I've gathered from the submission of those books, that's exactly what those books are teaching our kids."

Drag Queen Story Hour is scheduled to be held at the downtown library branch on Tuesday, September 10.

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