LGBTQ+ book pulled from school finds its way to Fort Worth Baptist church library

dfwnewsa | February 26, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

LGBTQ+ book pulled from school finds its way to Fort Worth Baptist church library

Amid nationwide book challenges and removals around titles with LGBTQ+ themes, Broadway Baptist Church has added a section to its library for LGBTQ+ readers. (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report)
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Lou Anne Mauldin and Carol Hafer, librarians for Broadway Baptist Church, remember feeling shocked to learn that a book they ordered for the church had a previous life at a Massachusetts high school. 

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The book, “Living With Religion and Faith” by Robert Rodi, is part of the author’s “Living Proud! Growing Up LGBTQ Series.” It covers how the LGBTQ+ community is viewed by different religions around the world. When the book arrived, Mauldin and Hafer found a blank library checkout sheet inside, with red ink scribbled over the bar codes and two red stampings of the word “withdrawn” on the first page. 

Books with LGBTQ+ themes made up over half of the most challenged titles in schools across the country in 2022, according to the American Library Association. The Fort Worth Independent School District pulled about 120 titles for review in the 2023-2024 school year. A review of the books is underway to determine if they are developmentally appropriate for students in answer to a state law that requires school districts to remove sexually explicit books from libraries. Books with sexual references that remain in the library require parental consent before a student can check it out. 

In February, Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth added “Living With Religion and Faith” and other LGBTQ+ themed books to its shelves. The initiative was led by the church’s LGBTQ+ Hospitality & Advocacy group and librarians as a way to educate its members by providing broader reading material.

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Broadway Baptist stance on LGBTQ faithful

Broadway Baptist Church has been located in the Near South Side for over 140 years. In 2009, the church was removed from the Southern Baptist Convention over its perceived tolerance of LGBTQ members. Broadway Baptist Church pulled out of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 2010 over its stance on LGBTQ people of faith, according to Baptist Standard. 

As for the original library home of Rodi’s book, Hafer said, “They may just have decided it was too young for their high school campus. They may have decided that it wasn’t the direction they wanted to go. There’s no way to know the story behind it. But it is an example of what has happened to our libraries in recent months.”

Lou Anne Mauldin, right, shows the book “Living With Religion and Faith” by Robert Rodi to church members during Broadway Baptist’s LGBTQ+ ribbon-cutting for its new shelf. Mauldin said she didn’t know that the book had been previously withdrawn from another library before she ordered it.  (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report)

What materials are considered “sexually relevant” and “sexually explicit”?

“Sexually relevant material” refers to a written description, photo, video or audio that describes or portrays sexual conduct. 

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“Sexually explicit material” refers to a written description, image, video or audio that describes or portrays sexual conduct in a patently offensive way. “Patently offensive” is a term used in U.S. law regarding obscenity under the First Amendment.

In both instances, state law excludes materials directly related to the required curriculum.

The church’s new library additions include 52 books centered around religion and LGBTQ+ themes. Some titles include “The Gospel of Inclusion” by Brandan J. Robertson and devotional books such as “Called Out.”

Both Mauldin and Hafer come to Broadway Baptist as former public school librarians. The church decided to start with a mix of nonfiction, memoirs, children’s books and devotionals as a way for LGBTQ+ church members to have titles to relate to and to educate church members who aren’t, Mauldin said.

“We look for books, and we read the reviews,” Maludin said. “We want to get books that are appropriate for certain ages.” 

The Rev. Ryon Price, senior pastor of Broadway Baptist Church, speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 11, 2024, about one of the books added to the library’s new LGBTQ+ shelf.  “We believe that it was actually one of the books that was a matter of contention in another community and the fact that it’s now at a Baptist church in Texas, I think can only be a godsend,” Price said. (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report)

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Scott Green is a member of Broadway Baptist and one of the founding members of the church’s LGBTQ+ Hospitality & Advocacy group. Looking ahead, Green hopes that the new book additions will pave the way for the church to have studies focused on LGBTQ+ spirituality topics and informational lectures during Pride month.

“Broadway, over the years, has taken some very extraordinarily bold steps to embrace the LGBTQ community and to send a very clear message that being gay and being Christians are not mutually exclusive,” Green said. 

Marissa Greene is a Report for America corps member, covering faith for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at marissa.greene@fortworthreport.org or @marissaygreene. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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