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Moms For Liberty Trying To Get School Librarians Arrested For Letting Teens Check Out 'Porn'
Gargoyle-adjacent porn. The worst kind!
The rightwing white Christian Nationalist group “Moms for Liberty” has grown from a dumb Florida-based anti-masking group into a pro-censorship juggernaut that encourages followers to file endless complaints about books they think promote “critical race theory,” “gender ideology,” and porn, porn, porn — none of which is actually pornographic or obscene by any legal standard, but may include two boys kissing, like the YA novel Two Boys Kissing. (Yr Wonkette gets a small cut of any sales from that and other Amazon links in this story.)
But as Judd Legum reports in his Popular Information newsletter, some Liberty lovers aren’t satisfied by taking the bureaucratic route, and prefer more direct means, like two Florida members of the group who have been reporting school librarians to law enforcement, accusing them of distributing “pornography” to minors because they allowed teenagers to check out books in which characters make out, use the fuck word, and almost do sex things.
In one incident, a member of the Santa Rosa chapter of Moms For Censorship, Jennifer Tapley — she’s running for school board next year, too — called the county sheriff’s dispatcher to demand deputies be sent to do something about some criming. (Weirdly, she called from the lobby of the sheriff’s office, Legum notes.)
"I've got some evidence a crime was committed," Tapley said in an audio recording of the call obtained by Popular Information through a public records request. "Pornography given to a minor in a school. And I would like to make a report with somebody and turn over the evidence." […]
She told the dispatcher that she did not want to provide her name because she was "afraid of people getting mad at me for doing this." Tapley said that she would tell the Deputy Sheriff her name, but she didn't want "any public records with her name on it because then people could look it up."
After all, when you accuse a school librarian of giving pornography to a minor in hopes of getting the librarian jailed on a felony charge, you wouldn’t want people knowing that was you.
Tapley told Legum in an interview that she found out on Facebook that there was “some really shocking pornographic books in our libraries," so she joined the local Moms for Fascism chapter to stop it.
Also in the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s office lobby with Tapley was a gent named Tom Gurski, also a member of the Mad Moms group. Because Florida still has really good public records laws, Legum was able to get video of deputies interviewing the two, although we can’t embed it here.
Gurski explained the deputies needed to get on this right away: "The only reason we are here: A crime is being committed. It's a third-degree felony. And we've got the evidence."
Tapley chimed in, explaining that Ron DeSantis would want immediate action:
"The governor says this is child pornography. It's a serious crime," Tapley added. "It's just as serious as if I handed a Playboy to [my child] right now, right here, in front of you. It's just as serious, according to the law."
This is where we point out that child pornography is a serious crime that actually exploits and harms the real live children forced to perform in it. It’s one of the few things that courts have held is absolutely not protected by the First Amendment. We suppose it’s not surprising would-be censors try to conflate it with “minors reading a book that describes sex,” even though the latter is in no sense “child pornography.”
So what was this terrible porn book, for which a librarian might need to go to prison? That would be the young adult novel Storm and Fury, by Jennifer L. Armentrout, which Legum describes as
mostly about humans and gargoyles fighting demons. The main character of the novel, Trinity, is 18 years old. There are some passages with sexual themes, including a few makeout sessions, and one where the main character almost has sex.
Almost-sex, as we all recall from Catholic school or from George Carlin routines about it, is exactly as bad as actual sex (so you might as well go ahead and commit the mortal sin that’s more fun). Storm and Fury is aimed at readers aged 14 to 18.
Legum got in touch with Armentrout, who was surprised, but probably not too much, to learn that we live “in an era where, apparently, some adults find it appropriate to contact the police over a fictional book involving gargoyles."
Sexy, sexy gargoyles, maybe. Or maybe the protagonist only almost has sex with a human, which is just as bad.
Tapley explained to Legum that to her mind, any book that includes a “sex scene” is pornography and therefore illegal to let minors read. She also told Legum that Storm and Fury, like other books she wants somebody to go to jail for, is “without significant literary value,” which is not at all what that phrase means in a legal context, but hey, why be bound by Supreme Court rulings when you can decide for yourself what’s porn and what has no redeeming value?
Gurski insisted that they had proof that a 17-year-old had checked out the book, so there’s your crime.
Asked if she wanted to see librarians jailed over the sexy gargoyle book,
Tapley told Popular Information that it "depends on if there's an intent." She said her hope was that the Sheriff would tell the librarians, "you can't do this," and "if you continue to do this, then there would be charges." Tapley added that she "didn't really want to see anybody have their life ruined."
That would probably be why she complained at length to the deputies about how the librarian for Milton High School and the county schools’ head librarian were liberals who oppose Moms for Liberty and one of them even supports abortion rights.
Ultimately, Legum says, the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office referred the complaint to the school district and then closed the case, hooray. But Gurski, it seems, had better luck complaining to the Milton, Florida, police about another book he considered pornography, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, which has talk about sex in it and one of the main characters is even gay!!!!!!!!!
And damned if the local cops didn’t take him at least a bit seriously, because
In response to a public records request, the Milton Police Department said it could not release any information regarding Gurski's complaint about the book because there is an "open and active investigation pending State Attorney review."
Like, even without any gargoyles.
So far, these idiots haven’t managed to actually get any librarians arrested, but it’s worrying enough that an actual law enforcement agency is bothering to “investigate” at all. And hell, some librarian in Florida or Texas or Idaho may end up getting arrested at this rate, though it’s hard to believe that would hold up in court. But there’s always the worry that some idiot with a gun will decide to help out, as well as the ongoing threat against letting people just read books.
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