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Pastor, deacons lead protest of library’s homosexual books

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (BP)–A Southern Baptist pastor will not return two children’s books promoting homosexuality to the Kemp Public Library in Wichita Falls, Texas, while the deacons of First Baptist Church there have asked the city council to direct the library to refrain from carrying such books.
The actions have ignited a firestorm, making pastor Robert Jeffress and the 8,400-member church the target of a scathing editorial May 16 by the city’s only newspaper, and recipients of a plethora of criticism from homosexual groups and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The issue surfaced when the library purchased — with taxpayer funds — two children’s books, “Daddy’s Roommate” and “Heather Has Two Mommies.” Proponents say the books are intended for children who live with homosexual parents and their live-in partners. One book tells the story of a boy who has a homosexual father who lives with his boyfriend, while the other features a girl who has two lesbian “mothers.”
A member of First Baptist saw the books, checked them out and brought them to Jeffress, who showed them to the entire congregation while preaching a May 12 sermon on God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorra. In that sermon, Jeffress stated that homosexuality is against God’s will and violates Texas’ law against sodomy.
“The Bible does not stutter on this issue,” Jeffress said. “It says homosexuality is an abomination to God and, as Christians, we cannot afford to condone what God has condemned.”
“Daddy’s Roommate,” written from a little boy’s perspective, carries a drawing of two men in bed with the caption, “Daddy and his roommate sleep together.” Another drawing shows two men embracing, with a caption, “Being gay is just one more kind of love.”
“This is a value statement that promotes sodomy, which is against the law in Texas,” Jeffress told the congregation, adding that sodomy is one of the primary causes for the greatest epidemic in human history, AIDS.
Liberal and homosexual rights organizations have lambasted Jeffress and the church for its stand. “Banning these books is an un-American activity,” Kathy Miller told the Wichita Falls Times Record News. Miller is deputy director of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit organization that monitors conservative religious groups and public education.
Jay Jacobson, American Civil Liberties Union executive director for Texas, threatened to sue the city if it allows the books to be banned.
“I would consider it a badge of honor to be sued by the ACLU,” Jeffress told Baptist Press. “The ACLU spends millions of dollars to prevent school prayer, ban nativity scenes from courthouse squares and religious books in our school libraries.”
Pastors and members from at least 24 area churches have voiced support for Jeffress and the position taken by First Baptist. The pastor of one of those churches, Ron Killingsworth of Rephidim Church, also has been criticized for publicly speaking out against the books.
Killingsworth told the Times Record News, “I object to the promotion of the homosexual and lesbian lifestyle as being acceptable when it violates the Judeo/Christian Bible.
“I believe the Bible says a homosexual and lesbian lifestyle is wrong, and God pronounced the death penalty on them,” Killingsworth said, referring to Sodom and Gomorra. “If you allow this behavior in your society and culture, it will destroy society.”
Cathy Renna, director of the Washington-based Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, attempted to compare Killingsworth’s comments about homosexuality to how Nazis treated Jews during World War II and suggested Christians who oppose the homosexual lifestyle are “irrational.”
Citing Acts 5:29, Jeffress said, as the apostles said, Christians must obey God rather than man. “There comes a time when Christians must stand up and say enough is enough,” Jeffress told Baptist Press. “We are to be the salt and light of the world. Salt is a preservative and we are to be preservatives in a corrupt world.”
The deacons of First Baptist Church unanimously passed a resolution May 12 calling for the city council to “instruct the Library Board to identify and remove all literature from the city library that would promote and/or sanction homosexual behavior.”
“Furthermore,” the resolution stated, “we encourage all God-fearing citizens in Wichita Falls to join us in this action.”
Meanwhile, Linda Hughes, the library administrator, defended the books, telling the Times Record News that Jeffress “doesn’t think it’s censorship because he’s not affecting publication. But he’s affecting dissemination, and he should let the public make their own decisions.”
Hughes said the books were chosen by the library from the American Library Association’s best book list. Indeed the ALA’s Internet site features several best book lists and some include books about the homosexual lifestyle. One of the books, for example, “The Sacred Heart,” is suggested for readers in grades eight through 12 and is summarized by the ALA this way: “Gay and lesbian and bisexual teens speak out in a heartfelt, compassionate collection of essays, with superb portrait photos that personalize the stories.”
The Times Record News attempted in a May 16 editorial to portray Jeffress, the deacons and members of First Baptist Church as “a relatively small group” who are trying to decide what should be available in the public library. “Clearly, Jeffress and the deacons believe they should decide,” the newspaper said in stating its position. “But is that what’s best for the community as a whole, a community that includes a diverse group of people and not just members of First Baptist Church? Can a relatively small group, even acting on what its members believe to be moral principles and in what they believe to be the best interests of the community as a whole, be allowed to dictate what the rest of the community will find on library shelves that have been paid for by all within this community through taxes and fees? No, that cannot be allowed.”
“There are pedophiles that would love to check out books on pedophilia and how to have sex with children,” Jeffress told Baptist Press. “But we as a society recognize that is wrong.
“This is not censorship and this is not a First Amendment issue,” he said. “We should not be forced to purchase these books with tax dollars. It is hypocritical that our nation has decided to censor tobacco ads targeted at children, yet so-called First Amendment advocates holler and scream when anyone tries to shield children from books that condone sodomy. Our objection is not that they mention homosexuality, but that they sanction homosexuality.
“I would not be against a novel that a had a homosexual character, but to have books that make a value statement equating homosexual love with heterosexual love is offensive to citizens.” He added he would not oppose anyone selling or owning either book, “just that they shouldn’t be in our public library.”
Jeffress said he would not return the books to the library, informing city officials he would pay the library penalty for both so the members of his congregation who checked the books out would not be fined or lose their library privileges. Indeed, he wrote a $54 check for the books May 15 as local television news cameras looked on in his office.
“I understand my action will not keep these books from being put back on the shelves,” Jeffress said. “But I’m engaging in this act of civil disobedience to bring light to this issue.”
The Times Record News editors indirectly called for authorities to take legal action against Jeffress in its May 16 editorial. “Civil disobedience does fly in the face of established legal authority, and there must be commensurate legal sanctions for violating the law, even when the violation arises from moral indignation.”
But City Attorney Greg Humbach, a member of First Baptist, disagreed. “I believe we have a moral protest here, not an intent of theft,” he said in response to a question by the newspaper.
Jeffress responded to the editorial by taking five minutes from his scheduled sermon May 17 and specifically addressing his remarks toward Times Record News editor Carroll Wilson.
“If you think this issue is a Robert Jeffress or First Baptist issue, you are in for a rude awakening,” according to the newspaper, which apparently covered his sermon and reported his remarks on the front pages of its Sunday morning May 17 editions. Jeffress asked the congregation to write letters, expressing their support for the book ban, to the newspaper and city council members.
Extra help was required on Monday, May 18, in the church office in order to deal with an avalanche of phone calls, which Jeffress said was running 95 percent in favor of the ban.
“We understand this will be a long battle,” Jeffress said. “As much as the city council would like to run from this issue, we are going to hold them accountable for the stand they take. Come election time, we will remember — and Christians have long memories. A city in the middle of ‘Tornado Alley’ needs to be careful about what it condones.”

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  • Don Hinkle