Doing God’s Work

June 22, 2007

It’s been too long since we last cocked a leg over the Jesus whoopers. To set things right, here’s an item from the School Library Journal about an enjoyable summer program in South Carolina that had to be shut down because the local Baptist church was getting a little too forceful with God’s love:

A South Carolina library system has closed down its summer programs for young adults after receiving threats and allegations that it was trying to promote “witchcraft” and “drug use.”

The Pickens County Library System’s half-hour summer programs for middle and high school students were supposed to take a light-hearted look at the topics “Secrets and Spies: How to Keep a Secret by Writing in Code or Making Invisible Ink” and “What’s Your Sign?” Another program was to examine astrology, palmistry, and numerology; and others were to feature tarot cards, tie-dying t-shirts, how to make a Zen garden, and yoga.

Now the programs are cancelled in the wake of phone and e-mail threats from the community, believed to emanate from a single local Baptist church. The astrology program was labeled as “witchcraft” by callers, while the Zen garden and yoga programs were objected to as “promoting other religions.” The t-shirts workshop? “Promotes the hippie culture and drug use,” callers said.

“If you have an anonymous call of a bomb, what do you do?” asks Library Director Marguerite Keenan, explaining her decision to cancel the YA programs. “You clear the building, you close the building for the protection of the children. And that’s hugely sad.”

Keenan says that the stream of threatening 20 or 30 anonymous phone calls, plus e-mails, began two weeks ago. Callers spoke of “picketing” the county’s four libraries and made statements such as “We’re going to get you” and “How dare you?”

She says that a local reporter traced some of the signed e-mails to congregants of a Baptist church, whose pastor was interviewed about the threats.

Keenan adds that she made her decision because she also runs children’s programs and “I’m not going to have preschoolers walk between a gauntlet of pickets.”

What can you do with these people? How can you talk to them? I live in the civilized sphere, and I have absolutely nothing in common with creeps like this, aside from having opposable thumbs and breathing oxygen. Come to think of it, do they have opposable thumbs? Or is that little innovation another of the many bits of evolution that passed them by? 


3 Responses to “Doing God’s Work”

  1. Oudler Says:

    I do not have religious objections to Tarot reading myself, but as a Tarot player, I am disappointed at what appear to be one-sided presentations of Tarot cards only in terms of divination.

    Tarot cards, according to playing card historians, were not originally designed for fortune telling. They were created for playing a type of card game similar to Whist. Tarot card games are still played today in France, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. There also appears to be a small but growing number of players outside Europe.

    If public educational institutions foster the notion that Tarot is only about divination and the occult, then they are not doing the job for which we pay them.

    I think that taxpayer funded institutions such as public libraries and public schools which are designed to educate the public should give equal time to the card playing aspects of Tarot. Tarot is often presented in this country only as something to accept or reject in terms of its alleged accuracy in predicting the future. When other options such as card playing are being supressed, one is not actually free in how one views or uses the cards.

    I must ask why must all presentations of Tarot in this country have to be occult related? Why do we not expose the young people to actual card games played with Tarot decks? Teens should be aware that Tarot cards are not just used for the occult or for divination. We should teach teenagers the rules for Tarot card games too. It is highly possible that young people may come to prefer the card games over the divination practices. They should be given an informed choice. We should educate young people about all aspects of culture including Tarot and not present one sided depictions of these matters.

    I do not wish for these Tarot presentations to be banned or cancelled as they have in some parts of the country, but I do think they should be more balanced by including some information regarding Tarot’s role in the history of card games.

  2. Caveat Says:

    It’s the ‘anonymous’ part that bothers me. If you have an opinion, no matter how bigoted, uneducated and unoriginal, at least have the guts to leave some contact info.

    I wouldn’t want to live in a town where I could receive dozens of threatening messages for ‘promoting other religions’ whatever that means. Since I’m an atheist, it’s just ‘promoting religion’ which is what churches do, isn’t it?

    Where did all these stupid throwbacks come from? I’ve met some ding-dongs but this is beyond belief.

  3. Alison Says:

    I always thought that people should be accountable, and this would be a good opportunity to show how that works. (Too late by now, I’d imagine.) The library should not have caved, but then again, we don’t know the exact nature of the threats. However. . .if the threats were bad enough, they should have been reported to law enforcement and publicized. If they weren’t dangerous, the library should have just publicized them. After the threats were made public, there would have been a response that would have justified either cutting the program (and making it public as to why) or keeping it despite the threats. Let people know that so-and-so from wherever said this (and quote it, because I’ll betcha the grammar and spelling would give a big clue as to the intelligence of the objectors) so this person or group is responsible for the program being cut. Let it come back to them. Forward copies to their ISPs. Let their brutishness become part of public record. There’s truth to the adage that sunshine is the best disinfectant.

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