Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) has a bill being carried by Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) in the Senate that seeks to impose censorship on libraries by forming parental boards which would be able to decide what can and can’t be in them.
The Tennessee Library Association opposes the bill, saying libraries already have local control, and pointing out discrimination would open the libraries up to lawsuits.
Holt & co. say it isn’t about discrimination, it’s about protecting kids – but witnesses that spoke in support of the bill are openly anti-LGBT, tweeting proudly about that designation on multiple occasions.
Both witnesses who supported Holt’s bill were self-described preachers who spoke of an incident at the Putnam County Library where a Drag Queen “exposed their genitalia” to a child.
We’ve seen no reports of any such incident, or anyone being arrested for doing this – which is obviously ALREADY A CRIME – so we called the library to ask about it. Here’s that conversation:
HOLLER: You had Drag Queen Story Hour at the Putnam County Library, and witnesses at a hearing this week say somebody exposed themselves to a child. Did that happen?
PUTNAM LIBRARY: “No. Well – one can never prove a negative, right? I can’t flat-out say it didn’t happen. But ONE: No library staff witnessed that happening. TWO: It was never ever reported to any staff. THREE: We had police on the scene during certain parts of that day. Nobody ever filed a police report. Nobody ever notified the police that this happened. So we assume it didn’t happen.”
HOLLER: They say they have a picture of it. Have they ever brought that to you? Or the police?
PUTNAM LIBRARY: “Not that I’m aware of. They never brought it to me. I’m pretty sure they never brought it to the police. Because I imagine they would’ve had a police report, and they would’ve come investigated that.”
He also went on to tell us they had an LGBT display with books during Pride Week, but they were age appropriate, not pornographic in any way, and they ended up removing it when enough locals asked them to.
We also checked in with a spokesperson from the Drag Queen story hour situation, who told us:
“Rich Penkoski is a street preacher who does online videos. His group, Warriors for Christ, is a hate group per SPLC. He has a photo of a supporter in drag squatted down talking to a child outside Putnam Co Library that he has blurred to look like it’s obscene.
These are the facts: He has never been inside one of our events. Our Facebook page has videos of our readings. We haven’t used a public library since Jan 2019 because the crowds are too big for the library. We’ve been using private venues since March 2019. All of our volunteers have to pass a background check.”
BOTTOM LINE: Penkoski and Pastor James Fortunato are claiming someone exposed themselves to a child – which is already a crime – but did nothing about it? And they’re question the morality of others?
This bill is quite obviously about censorship and discrimination. Call your reps.
UPDATE — Penkoski reached out to us about the incident, and maintains it did happen, saying:
The library staff is lying. We absolutely did tell them about the man exposing himself. I have an email that I sent to them and the board with the photos. You also never mentioned the librarian who called for violence against me and solicited help from a group in Louisiana who made local news for issuing death threats against me.
UPDATE 2 — Penkoski has sent us the pictures in question. There does not appear to be any genitalia, only exposed underwear – and would seem to make sense that the library took no action.
The parents were right there. They claim the bill is about parental control, yet are making a big deal about something the parents don’t seem to have pursued.
Also, here they are wondering why the police and the news are being unresponsive.