Homophobic Censorship

15 Feb

This story appeared in the Loudoun County (which shares a border with the home of yours truly) regional newspaper this week:

An award-winning children’s book was recently removed from general circulation at Loudoun County public elementary school libraries.And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson is based on the true story of two male penguins who took turns sitting on an orphaned egg at the Central Park Zoo. In the story, the penguins, Roy and Silo, start their family when the chick, Tango, is hatched.

A parent at Sugarland Elementary in Sterling filed a request with the school principal that the book be reviewed. The principal and several staff members deemed the book appropriate for general circulation.

The parent appealed the school’s decision with the Loudoun County Public Schools administration. According to David Jones, the LCPS library media supervisor, a district-level committee was formed with teacher, parent, school librarian and administrative representatives who reviewed the book and offered a recommendation to Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III, who ultimately decided on the book’s status.

Dr. Hatrick determined that And Tango Makes Three should be taken out of general circulation at the elementary level and placed in each school’s professional library. Teachers may reference and share the book with students at their own discretion. Children and parents may not check the book out of the library.

The American Library Association cites And Tango Makes Three as one of 2006’s most challenged books.

David Weintraub, president of Equality Loudoun, a gay advocacy group, said that the rights of the parent who challenged this book trumped the rights of parents who may support it. “Loudoun County Public Schools serve children from all kinds of families, including families with two moms or two dads. The administration and school board need to remember that when confronted with this sort of book challenge.”

I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure that this children’s book does not discuss the ins and outs of homosexual lovemaking techniques. Moreover, while it probably is illustrated, I doubt that the pictures are pornographic. And I know it’s not even about humans, homosexual or otherwise! It simply depicts a penguin family that has two dads instead of a mom and a dad. This subject matter is unsuitable for children because…?

What is the matter with the right-wing, family values crowd? Would it have been better for the males to have left the egg unattended so that the baby inside would never have hatched? If so, then maybe right-to-lifers can tell me some more about the sanctity of life before birth (or hatching)! Good Grief! The USA has innocent people wasting their lives on death row, has wrongfully executed dozens of others only to exclaim later, “Oops, wrong guy – sorry about that,” has tortured prisoners with skin colors and accents that their captors don’t like, is illegally occupying a country and making threatening noises at that country’s neighbors – and people are concerned about a book that they presume is about gay penguins! It seems to me that the USA has far more substantive moral issues to deal with than gay guys, gay gals, gay guinea pigs, gay goats, gay geese or gay penguins.

I’d be doubled over in laughter if the situation weren’t so contemptible. Instead, I think I’m going to be ill. Excuse me.

— the chaplain

P.S. Visit Phillychief’s blog for his unique perspective on this story.


Posted by on February 15, 2008 in censorship, politics, prejudice, sex


25 responses to “Homophobic Censorship

  1. athinkingman

    February 15, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    I too am sickened by this. Why should one person have so much power? Why should one group have so much power? All anyone needs to do is claim objections and the rest seems to cave in. When the Catholic church censored books you could argue that 1) they were professionals, 2) they were in power anyway and were just maintaining the status quo. What is happening here is that amateurs are significantly changing a status quo, and based on such absurd reasons.

    Are things getting worse over there, or is it just me getting older?

  2. David

    February 15, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    It is absolutely, incredibly stupifying, and that is far and away the most common reaction I’m hearing from other parents in the school system. We’ll be talking about the book and the Superintendent’s excuse, the notion that some children might not be “ready” for the supposed “mature subject matter” and they’ll just have this stunned look on their face and say “but, it’s about penguins.”

    You can’t make this stuff up.

    Thanks for blogging about it.

    David from Equality Loudoun

  3. Sue Blue

    February 16, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Yep, for these idiots, the most pressing, burning issues in the USA today are not healthcare, the economy, the war, global climate change or anything else that’s real or tangible. No, what’s really going to destroy life as we know it is…wait for it….THE GAY AGENDA!!!! OMHMIGOD!!! Bad enough that perverted penguins exist, but now they’re trying to foist their twisted tale of same-sex egg-lovin’ on the innocent minds of our children!! Stop the presses!

    Excuse me while I go out and burn some Bibles. Talk about trash! Nothing but adultery, sodomy, baby-killing, incest…

  4. Lynet

    February 16, 2008 at 2:52 am

    That sounds like such a cute book! It’s horrible that they’re basically saying that facts like “two male penguins in a zoo hatched a chick together” are unsuitable for children. I mean, some facts are unsuitable for children, but “my children might fail to develop the appropriate prejudices” is not a reason for censorship!

  5. plonkee @ the religious atheist

    February 16, 2008 at 4:44 am

    An award winning children’s picture book about penguins based on a true story is banned. What is the world coming to?

    I guess it’s implicit that they are a couple, but it needn’t be read that way, and it sounds like it’s as much about adoption, and fostering as it is anything else. David said it best, it’s about penguins for goodness sake.

  6. phillychief

    February 16, 2008 at 9:23 am

    I really can’t point this out enough. Almost every time in my life where I’ve been on the receiving end of or witnessed others suffer the bullying of the religious to make the powers that be give them their way, it was because they were VERY vocal and persistent. It’s a combination of the old adage of “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” with the old Cosby gag about how parents aren’t interested in justice, they’re interested in quiet. There are probably 100s of parents there who have no problem with that book but who (and I don’t blame them for this) never once said to the powers that be how they were thankful of that book being there. However, there was one loon who made a stink and won the day because the ass in charge wanted peace and quiet.

    So this is why we need to not take for granted but recognize publicly when things like this book appear in our libraries and other sensible decisions are made and we have to raise a stink when we see injustices. We have to be heard, more often and louder than those loons or else they’ll always get their way.

  7. The Ridger

    February 16, 2008 at 11:32 am

    For some of those folks, yeah, it would have been better for the egg not to have hatched.

  8. The Exterminator

    February 16, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    And yet, they have no trouble with a book about an elephant hatching an egg all by himself!

  9. the chaplain

    February 16, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Is Horton the Elephant’s story any more far-fetched than the Virgin Mary’s tale? Neither Horton nor Mary had sex before performing their heroic deeds, and we all know that, in some minds, no sex = the best sex.

  10. Ric

    February 16, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    To sound a serious note, as I’ve noted often before, the right-wing, family values, Christian crowd comprises mentally ill people. However, since their values are partly responsible for global warming (dominion and suchlike), they can be assured that they will not have to worry about gay penguins for too much longer since all the goddamned birds will be dead.

  11. ordinary girl

    February 17, 2008 at 10:51 am


  12. The Ridger

    February 17, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Also, I’d like to point out that this reaction is typical: pretend that what you don’t like didn’t happen.

  13. HeIsSailing

    February 18, 2008 at 10:09 am

    “And Tango Makes Three” topped American Library Associations’s 2006 list of most challenged books for “for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group”.

    I would love to challenge the challengers, of whom 100% are undoubtedly evangelicals. How can this possibly be contrived as ‘anti-family’?

    And have we reached the point where we believe children are so fragile that they must be sanitized from two male penguins hatching an egg?

  14. bullet

    February 18, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Does anyone have proof that these penguins were really gay? If there’s video of gay penguin sex, I have to say I’m dying to see it.

  15. Kelly

    February 18, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    You ask what’s wrong with the “family values” crowd. It’s probably the values. When people use religion as a way to push their own personal fear-based prejudice forward, values are bound to be skewed.

    Just my two cents.

  16. John Evo

    February 18, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    What is the matter with the right-wing, family values crowd?

    They have really ass-backwards ones.

    @ Kelly – agreed.

  17. Pockets

    February 19, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    The fact that opposition to the natural phenomenon of homosexuality takes place so frequently through the device of censorship in America and in England is an interesting one. Tinky-Winky can’t have a purse. Albus Dumbledore should step down as gay schoolmaster. Disney castles are not allowed to look like penises. Censorship deeply seeks to eliminate even the idea of something. It’s like Pharaoh striking Moses’ name from buildings, obelisks, and documents. It’s an attempt to scratch something out of the annals of history, to completely disavow an existence.

    The reason I find this interesting is because self-proclaimed opponents of homosexuality, homophobes who would go so far as to censor, those who would seek to eliminate even the very word from language, are the same blockheads who claim that all it takes to be a homosexual is to have a homosexual thought. It’s why they want to eliminate the idea from all media, conversation, and existence around them so as not to have the thought themselves. Yet, in order to own the very basic concept of, “I hate gay,” you have to have had a “gay” thought to know you don’t like it. Lord knows you didn’t go to bed with a similarly endowed drifter. You have to have pictured something to garner your disgust, even a tiny something. Hence, by their own definition, so many opposed to homosexuality are actually gay themselves. Those so adamant as to wish the idea eliminated from the world around them in hopes of never having to face it, have already entertained the idea.

  18. Ric

    February 20, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Let us not forget the phallicosity of church steeples…

  19. chandelle

    February 22, 2008 at 11:48 am

    actually, i’m highly doubtful that those penguins would be gay anyhow. male penguins sit on eggs until they hatch, not females. so those penguins wouldn’t have had anything to do with each other, really, but rather would be protecting the flock – like two guy friends who take their kids to the park together. the story should be applauded for being accurate to animal biology. jesus h. christ, what is the world coming to?

  20. Altoona Atheist

    February 22, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    I had a big comment written, but figured I’d offend the military..that being said, Question? Is this school near a military base and is this area UBER Patriotic? Ehhem.. This would make more sense to me as to why some freakazoid parent got so pissy about the book.

  21. the chaplain

    February 22, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Altoona Atheist asked: Is this school near a military base and is this area UBER Patriotic?

    The school is in Sterling, Virginia, which is about 25-30 miles northwest of Washington, DC. Although there are lots of military/naval/marine posts in this general area, I think the one nearest to Sterling would be over 20 miles away. So, I don’t think a conservative military influence is at play in this case.

    In general, northern Virginia is the most liberal, cosmopolitan region in the state. It’s more like the northeastern USA than the south. If one moves outside of the three counties that comprise “northern VA” (one of which is Loudoun) the state is much more southern and conservative. Sterling is located in Loudoun County, which is also the home of the UBER-right-wingnut conservative Christian Patrick Henry College (think Liberty, Regent, ORU – you’ve got the general idea). Since PHC is located in pretty close proximity to Sterling, I wouldn’t be surprised if faculty/staff/students at that college have some influence at Sugarland Elementary School. That seems more likely than the military angle.

  22. Altoona Atheist

    March 1, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    The reason for my question was becasue in my Newspaper in Altoona some Chaplain had an article called King New the Truth.. I later found that it appeared in several papers through out the state.. the author is a chaplain for the PA house of represntatives.. talk about promoting propaganda!!!!

    here is the link.. I pwnd him on this site….

  23. the chaplain

    March 1, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Thanks for the link to an interesting article and comment thread.


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