A book about a young gay man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality has provoked the wrath of a US Christian ‘civil liberties’ group who say it should be burned.
The book in question is Francesca Lia Block’s Baby Be-Bop, a novel aimed at young adults. In the novel, the protagonist, Dirk, struggles to come to terms with his identity and is beaten up by a group of homophobic men.
However, the curiously-named Christian Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit demanding the right to publicly burn the book. They are also demanding $120,000 (£72,000) in compensatory damages.
The group, who, despite their title, have no affiliation to the American Civil Liberties Union, have described the book as “explicitly vulgar, racial [sic], and anti-Christian”.
The men from Wisconsin have filed a claim against the West Bend Community Library, which had the book on display. Their suit claims that the book “constitutes a hate crime, and that it degrades the community”.
The suit reads: “The plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library.”
It adds that derogatory language, such as the use of the word ‘nigger’ could “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.”
“The word ‘faggot’ is very derogatory and slanderous to all males,” the suit continued. “Using the word ‘nigger’ is dangerously offensive, disrespectful to all people. These words can permeate violence.”
Prior to this legal challenge, some residents of West Bend tried to have the book, and others deemed ‘explicit’, removed from library shelves.
In a letter to the West Bend Common Council, members of the National Coalition Against Censorship and American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression argued that “The Constitution prohibits a public library from censoring material because some people find it offensive or distasteful”.
Francesca Lia Block, the author, told The Salon that she had intended to “expose racism and homophobia, not promote it” by including the offensive words, adding, “It’s a tiny little book, but they want to burn it like a witch.”
She said: “I’d like to show my support for the librarians with any statement I can make. “They’re the unsung heroes in our society. My brother works on a hotline for gay youth and every night he’s talking people down from suicide because they’re gay and they’re not accepted by the communities they’re in.”
The city council insurance company is currently evaluating the Christian Civil Liberties Union claim.