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Two days after actor Kirk Cameron and former NCAA champion swimmer Riley Gaines announced that they would be appearing at a faith-filled story hour hosted by the conservative political organization Moms for Liberty at the Madison Public Library in Alabama, the event was abruptly canceled after months of planning.
Citing a capacity limit, the library’s public relations director Jay Hixon said in a news release that the public space could no longer hold the event after the scope of attendees quickly grew from approximately 30 to 300 following the announcement from conservative influencers Cameron and Gaines, which also sparked threats from protestors about 80 miles south of Madison County.
But Moms for Liberty organizers Emily Jones and Elizabeth Stewart told The Daily Wire they’re not buying the official narrative from the 200-year-old countywide library system and the Madison City Police Department.
“It was a directive on how to manage our group and not the protesters,” Jones, the organization’s Madison County chapter chair, said. “To me, that just indicates that [the police chief] is not interested in making this event go well. He wants it to go away.”
Two months ago, Jones said the grassroots parent group that advocates against school curricula teaching identity politics to children — including LGBT rights and Critical Race Theory — received notice from BRAVE Books publishing company looking to hold a story hour event in the southern state during its “See You at the Library” national tour taking place in nearly 300 libraries and 45 states across the country.
The event is led by Cameron, star of the 1980s sitcom “Growing Pains,” to allow conservative Christian families to meet at public libraries around the country on August 5 as an alternative to controversial children’s drag queen events, the company said on X.
Cameron and Gaines were not originally scheduled to appear at the Madison County event. But of the many locations booked on the tour, Jones said she received a separate email earlier this week stating that the two national conservative celebrities planned to attend.
“I freaked out on Elizabeth and shouted and kind of did a happy dance,” she said.
The organization and Cameron shared the news on social media, drawing more attention to the event.
“The response was overwhelming,” Jones said.
As more people began expressing interest in attending, Jones said the library reached out and asked if the organizers needed additional space to hold a bigger crowd. They initially declined, suggesting holding the event outside. However, after local law enforcement confirmed threats of protests from a group out of Birmingham, they were advised to move the event to a private location. But the organization stayed firm on its position to still hold the event in the public space.
“This is intended to be at a library and put traditional values back into the library, so we’re sticking there,” Jones said.
After several exchanges, the library ultimately said they would no longer support the event out of safety concerns and suggested finding a new location without providing other alternative solutions, including directing library staff to operate on a suggested first-come, first-serve basis.
“My personal opinion is they really don’t want this event to happen,” Stewart, the communications lead for the organization’s first and largest chapter in North Alabama, said.
Stewart said the group has been monitoring social media accounts on TikTok and Reddit threads of far-left protesters who planned to travel to Madison and hold protests outside the story hour event. Some have indicated they would display banned books in the parking lot, while others suggested they would show up dressed in drag attire in front of the children.
When tour organizers first approached Moms for Liberty to host the children’s event, Jones said they were reluctant due to other obligations. But after a couple of weeks, she said God put it on her heart to move forward with the event in the wake of drag queen story events popping up nationwide in recent years, including at the Madison Public Library.
“We have family-friendly drag shows 20 minutes from my house,” she said. “We have kid drag shows, meaning kids are dressing in drag on full display — and I think that God put this in front of us because he hears the cry of our community, our churches, and our leaders to step up and push back on them.”
“So I think God did the next best thing and turned to the moms and said, ‘Make it happen,'” she added.
BRAVE Books recently obtained evidence that the taxpayer-funded American Library Association (ALA) has allegedly been guiding libraries nationwide to thwart conservative or Christian parent groups from gathering in public libraries. According to the publishing company, a director with the national association suggested how libraries could block public meeting rooms from events like Cameron’s tour to use under the pretext of the space already being taken for other activities.
🚨 1/ BREAKING: We have obtained exclusive evidence that the taxpayer-funded American Library Association @ALALibrary is circulating guidance to sabotage conservative or Christian parent groups from gathering in public libraries on August 5th. One ALA director gave suggestions on… pic.twitter.com/iBqwIChNhJ
— BRAVE BOOKS (@BraveBooksUS) June 26, 2023
After the company posted the leaked recordings on social media, Republican Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) joined Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Braun (R-IN) in demanding an investigation into ALA’s alleged religious discrimination against BRAVE Books.
“To the contrary, the ALA is advancing a political agenda, not Brave Books. Further, the ALA is doing so while receiving federal funds and actively promoting hotly contested events in public libraries, including ‘Drag Queen Story Hours’ – events aimed at having scantily and/or exotically clothed adults read to children with the goal of introducing them to sexualized topics. The ALA has an entire page dedicated to ‘Drag Queen Story Hour,’ which includes a program session labeled ‘Reading Fabulously,'” wrote the senators.
First Liberty Institute, the law firm representing Cameron and Brave Books, sent a letter to the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C., asking the federal agency to “open an investigation into whether the American Library Association has violated federal law protecting religious liberty and failed to comply with the assurances of nondiscrimination required as a federal grant recipient,” according to The Christian Post.
An ALA spokesperson told the outlet, in part, “Publicly funded libraries are not obligated to provide meeting room space to the public.”
“If libraries choose to do so, such spaces are considered designated public forums, and legal precedent holds that libraries may not exclude any group based on the subject matter to be discussed or the ideas for which the group advocates,” the spokesperson continued, adding the association has been “very clear that, just like all other policies, library policies regarding meeting rooms should not be prejudicial or discriminatory” and should follow what it considers “a reasonable content and viewpoint policy” that protects library users and staff from “harassment.”
“[R]ather, they must be inclusive and follow a reasonable content and viewpoint policy that benefits all members, as well as ‘user behavior policies that protect library users and staff from harassment, while maintaining their historic support for the freedom of speech,'” the spokesperson said. “Any statement or suggestion that ALA has advised otherwise is incorrect and intentionally misleading.”
First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys, who is representing the Alabama Moms for Liberty chapter, called the cancellation an “unconstitutional religious discrimination” in a letter to the Huntsville-Madison County Libraries, adding that if Madison Public Library continues to refuse space for the event, attorneys are “prepared to vindicate this violation of our client’s civil rights in court.”
But for parents nationwide, such as Jones and Stewart, who observe foundational institutions exiling Christian conservatives out of the public square while openly embracing “evil societal norms” taking precedence in the United States, they are more encouraged than ever to take their fight on a national level and bring revival back into the communities.
“This does not go away with one story hour,” Jones said. “This is a generational fight for the safety and welfare of our children, and we’ve got to start taking action.”