Tag: free speech

Seattle Public Library Kicked Out of Trans Pride After Hosting Anti-LGBTQ+ Activist Kirk Cameron

Image from Kirk Cameron's latest anti-"woke" children's book, "Pride Comes Before the Fall," issued to coincide with the first day of Pride Month.
Image from Kirk Cameron’s latest anti-“woke” children’s book, “Pride Comes Before the Fall,” issued to coincide with the first day of Pride Month.

By Erica C. Barnett

The Gender Justice League has barred the Seattle Public Library from participating in the Trans Pride event on Friday, June 23, after the library decided to rent a large auditorium at the downtown library to former child star Kirk Cameron, a conservative activist who is touring to promote his latest “traditional family values” picture book.

PubliCola broke the story about Cameron’s appearance in April.

Responding to PubliCola’s questions about the cancellation, Gender Justice League Executive Director Danni Askini said the decision wasn’t just about Cameron’s appearance, but a response to a longstanding pattern of “deeply problematic behavior by the Library toward Two-Spirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse People,” such as denying a trans man access to a restroom in 2017 and renting the auditorium to a group that advocates against trans women’s rights two years later.

We know there are situations where intellectual freedom, equity, and inclusiveness are in conflict at the Library—we have seen it and lived it, and we should discuss it.”—Chief Librarian Tom Fay

“We look forward to the City Librarian, the Library, and the City of Seattle taking this opportunity to reflect on the harm that platforming hate groups have on our community, at a time when there have been 450+ anti-trans laws, including calls to remove trans youth from their families, banning constitutionally protected healthcare, creating felonies for using restrooms with minors, and outlawing all forms of gender affirming care,” Askini said.  “We absolutely refuse to allow government entities that platform hate mongers into our sacred, holy, and inviolable space,” she added.

The library has maintained that it has the legal obligation to rent its rooms to anyone who applies, regardless of their views, and that to make judgment calls about who uses their facilities would amount to government censorship and a violation of the First Amendment,” as well as “intellectual freedom.”

Cameron has said that public schools are “sexualizing” and “grooming” kids, that being gay is “unnatural” and “destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization, that women who have abortions are “murderers,” and that his book tour offers a “wholesome alternative to the Drag Queen Story Hours promoted by woke Marxist librarians.”

Cameron released his latest children’s book, “Pride Comes Before the Fall,” to coincide with the first day of Pride Month because, as he told the Washington Times, “When you have an entire nation setting aside a month to celebrate something as dangerous as pride, I feel it’s my responsibility to hold up the truth of humility so kids can have a chance.”

In a letter to library staff, SPL Chief Librarian Tom Fay said he understood and shared the Gender Justice League’s “concerns” about the anti-trans laws that are proliferating around the country in response to the efforts of prominent right-wing activists like Cameron.

“Library leadership will continue to discuss and investigate options for handling meeting room requests from groups outside of our community that strain the community relationships we have worked hard to build and that strain our limited publicly-funded resources,” Fay wrote. “We know there are situations where intellectual freedom, equity, and inclusiveness are in conflict at the Library—we have seen it and lived it, and we should discuss it.” However, his proposal boiled down to a “facilitated discussion” with trans and queer library staffers, rather than a change in policy.

In a public interview for the chief librarian position last year, Fay said the library had the “legalistic” obligation to rent its rooms to any person or group, and suggested in order to “at least state where we’re at on an issue without being so neutral,” the library could say that it “in no way endorses this particular group.”

A library spokesperson was unable to respond to a request for comment on Thursday; we will update this post when we hear back.

Council Candidate Backed Republican Smiley for Congress, Kirk Cameron’s Anti-“Woke” Event Spurred Successful Protest Fundraiser

1. Seattle City Council candidate Kenneth Wilson, running to replace one-term council member Alex Pedersen in District 4, supported Republican Tiffany Smiley over US Senator Patty Murray in the 2022 election, according to campaign finance records as well as Wilson’s response to a lightning-round question at a recent forum sponsored by the 36th District Democrats. At the forum, held on May 23, Wilson indicated “no” in response to the question “Did you vote for Patty Murray”; as the senator’s GOP opponent, Smiley flirted with election denialism and ran as an anti-abortion candidate.

Wilson also donated $500 to Smiley’s campaign last October, according to federal records. During his first run for council in 2021 against incumbent Position 9 Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Wilson said he was motivated to run by crime and the presence of “ghetto-type paintings” all over the city.

His opponents include Maritza Rivera and Ron Davis. Rivera, a deputy director of the city’s Office of Arts and Culture whose husband, political consultant Dan Kully, worked on former mayor Jenny Durkan’s campaign, is aligned with Harrell; Davis, who contributed to Harrell’s opponent, Lorena González, is running as a progressive urbanist. Durkan contributed $300 (the legal maximum) to Rivera, her first campaign contribution since 2015, when she gave $125 to the short-lived council campaign of Mian Rice, the son of former Seattle mayor Norm Rice.

Wilson has raised more than any of his opponents so far—about $65,000.

2. About 200 people showed up to see former TV star Kirk Cameron speak at the downtown Seattle Public Library last week, after the library rented a meeting room (subsequently upgraded to the main downstairs auditorium) to the former teen star. As PubliCola reported exclusively earlier this month, Cameron is promoting his appearances, in which he reads from his children’s book, as “a wholesome alternative to the Drag Queen Story Hours promoted by woke Marxist librarians.”

Cameron has said homosexuality is “unnatural,” believes women who have abortions are “murderers,” and has said public schools are “sexualizing” and “grooming” kids, a common trope among right-wing fringe groups. The library told PubliCola it would amount to “government censorship and a violation of the First Amendment” to refuse to rent a meeting room to Cameron’s group.

In a silver lining, the fundraiser raised more than $5,000 in pledges for Drag Queen Story Hour, the American Library Association’s LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund (which provides financial assistance for library staffers who lose their jobs for defending intellectual freedom; and Libraries for the People, an anti-censorship group.

According to one attendee—who helped organize a fundraiser to raise money for pro-library organizations—Cameron started his children’s book reading by delivering a “15 minute lecture on America’s tallest granite monument.” (Cameron is so obsessed with this obscure monument, known as the Forefathers Monument, that he made a documentary about it (!) and even sells “high-density resin” replicas of it (!!) for $200 (!!!) on his website. It’s so weird it would almost be charming, if the message of the monument wasn’t that the US is meant to be an explicitly Christian nation).

After that, he brought out the Bremerton coach who won a $2 million settlement after he was fired for holding prayers on the field during football games and led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing “God Bless America” before reading two of his children’s books promoting “traditional family values.”

At one point, according to the attendee, “Cameron pointed to the sky and asked the audience, ‘who loves you the most?’ and a kid in the audience yelled ‘Obama!'”

The library had security on hand, along with Seattle Police Department officers, to respond to potential protests. On Tuesday, library director Tom Fay issued a bland statement calling the event “a learning experience for all” and thanking library staff for their work to “minimize disruption and reduce the use of Library resources needed.”

In a silver lining, the fundraiser raised more than $5,000 in pledges for Drag Queen Story Hour, the American Library Association’s LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund (which provides financial assistance for library staffers who lose their jobs for defending intellectual freedom; and Libraries for the People, an anti-censorship group.

Draft City Policy Would Restrict Personal Use of Social Media, Bar Public Employees From Discussing Anything “Not Already Considered Public”

A proposed new rule governing City of Seattle employees’ conduct on social media would place new restrictions on what employees are allowed to say online, and would include not just full-time workers but anyone who contracts, works part-time, volunteers, or takes an internship at the city. The social-media restrictions would cover everything from harassment, doxxing, and expressing racist sentiments online (all reasonable restrictions for public servants) to anything that “negatively impacts the City of Seattle’s ability to serve the public,” a phrase that is undefined in the legislation and that does not appear in the Seattle Municipal Code.

The rule, which is modeled on (but is much more extensive than) the Seattle Police Department’s Code of Conduct for social media, would also prohibit city workers, contractors, and volunteers from disclosing or even discussing any city information that is either “confidential” (defined as anything that would not be disclosed through a public records requests, including policy drafts like the one I am describing) or “any information that is not already considered public.” Here’s that paragraph in full:

Unless a City employee is an authorized public information officer, an employee whose primary responsibility at the City is to communicate directly to the public on behalf of their department, employees shall not post or otherwise disseminate any confidential information they have access to or have learned about as a result of their employment with the City of Seattle, or discuss any information that is not already considered public without the prior consent or authorization of City department communications.

This restriction, interpreted liberally, would effectively ban all city employees from talking to the media unless explicitly authorized by a city public information officer to do so. The city’s whistleblower code only prohibits retaliation against employees who speak out about “waste[s] of public funds, unsafe practices and violations of law including violation of the City’s Ethics Code.”

Disclosing “confidential” information is already prohibited, although it happens routinely, especially in administrations that interpret public disclosure laws broadly—for example, by blacking out entire documents or simply refusing to provide them on the grounds that anything that isn’t already official policy or law is part of the city’s “deliberative process.”

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The ban on discussing anything that isn’t “already considered public” would be a broad expansion of this prohibition, effectively barring city employees from bringing forward concerns or information of public interest unless a department spokesperson answering to the mayor signs off on it in advance. Whistleblowers like the Seattle Silence Breakers, who brought forward stories about sexual harassment, assault, and gender discrimination within several city departments, might be less likely to come forward in the future if city policy explicitly bars them from discussing not just confidential information but any information that isn’t approved in advance by an official spokesperson for the city.

Shaun Van Eyk, the union representative for the Professional and Technical Employees Union, Local 17, which represents many city employees, says the proposed rule as written is “pretty far afield from anything we would accept.” He says the city has been quietly working on the rule for more a year, but he just became aware of it in the past two months.

Anthony Derrick, a digital advisor for the mayor’s office, says it’s “very common” for cities to have social media policies, and provided links to the policies for South San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. None of these policies, however, included any details about city employees’ personal use of social media; rather, all three are about how city employees should operate the official social media accounts of city agencies.

Derrick did not respond directly to a question about what would constitute “any information that is not considered public,” and pointed to the whistleblower code and existing language barring the disclosure of confidential information in the city’s municipal code. “It goes without saying that anything we potentially implement in the future would not infringe upon employees’ freedom of speech or civil liberties,” he says.

The city had hoped to wrap up discussions about the policy with “representatives from nearly all departments” by the end of March, according to Derrick, but the COVID-19 outbreak has put those conversations on hold.