Monday, May 16, 2005


Connecting the Dots

Red State Rabble has focused, for the most part, on the developing battle in Kansas over the teaching of evolution in public schools. We suspect that for many of our readers this is a central concern, as well.

However, for the right-wing zealots who are pushing intelligent design in the schools, it is but one front in the culture war.

This was brought home to us, the other night, by Mrs. Red State Rabble, who is a PTA president at a middle school in the Blue Valley School District here in Johnson County.

Recently, she attended a school board meeting where a group demanded that a number of books -- award winning books by authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Rudolfo Anaya, J.D. Salinger, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tobias Wolff-- be removed from the district's reading list because some have bad words in them.

This group, organized by Janet Harmon, has been rebuffed by parents, teachers, students, and the board itself many times, but like the energizer bunny, they just keep going, and going, and...

The district has an opt out choice for students or parents who are troubled by one book or another, but that is not good enough for these right-wing censors. They demand that these books be removed so that no child can read them. They claim that their children are stigmatized by requesting an optional reading choice -- that their proposals to force prayer into the schools might stigmatize some children is not, for them, a problem.

One of the books they want banned is the "Hot Zone" by Richard Preston. Red State Rabble finds their reasoning telling.

They have several objections to Preston's book. First, the don't like his his environmentalist philosophy. On their web site, they say Preston believes, "(t)he emergence of AIDS, Ebola, and any number of other rainforest agents appears to be a natural consequence of the ruin of the tropical biosphere." says "the earth is mounting an immune response against the human species" and, "the earth is attempting to rid itself of an infection by the human parasite."

Second, they are queasy about his clinical description of the symptoms of the Ebola infection, especially as it affects the human sexual organs, and yes, there are a handful of bad, bad words.

But, parents who have followed this controversy for some time report that the group also objects strongly to the "Hot Zone" because it presents a mainstream view of the age of the earth, evolution, and refers to Africa as the cradle of modern humans.

One of the activists who has spoken on behalf of this mothers for morality censorship group is Nancy Hanahan, president of the Sunflower Republican Women's Club of Johnson County and a major financial backer of the creationists on the Kansas State Board of Education and their right-wing state and federal PACs -- the Free Academic Inquiry and Research committee.

Here's another front in the war:

On April 20, the Johnson County Library board voted 4-3 to remove from its collections development policy the American Library Association's "Bill of Rights."

"Parents see libraries as a safe haven where their children can go and have a good experience," said James Berger, an estate planning attorney from Leawood, who voted for the proposal. Berger believes the library association guidelines strip the library board of the ability to safeguard children from objectionable material, such as pornography.

Now Red State Rabble is a library patron -- we think we may have some overdue books right now in fact -- but we have never seen porn on the shelves. Maybe, they're worried about enviornmentalist porn, such as the "Hot Zone," with its prurient description of Ebola symptoms.

Last week, two vacancies on the board were filled, opening the way for the board to revisit the collections development policy -- and bring it back in line with American Library Association policies and the First Amendment to the Constitution.

One of the appointments was Pamela Crandall, a volunteer in the Blue Valley School District. Crandall's appointment was opposed by right-wingers -- who pay very close attention to these appointments -- because she opposed the proposal to remove 14 books (the list is up to 29 now) from the Blue Valley schools reading list.

The right is organized, well-financed, and it is fighting in a disciplined way on many fronts. Those of us who see the value of church state separation must awaken to the very real, and growing danger posed by these right-wing zealots -- and we must fight them on every front they've opened in the war.


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