Metro Weekly

West Virginia library pulls and attempts to ban LGBTQ children’s book

Local pastor claims book showing two men falling in love and getting married is attempt to "indoctrinate" children

Cover of “Prince and Knight,” by Daniel Haack

A West Virginia public library is deciding whether to permanently ban an LGBTQ-themed book featuring a male same-sex couple after a local pastor complained that it is an attempt to “indoctrinate” children into homosexuality.

The Upshur County Library Board has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. to discuss whether to ban Prince & Knight, an illustrated book by Daniel Haack, which features a prince who falls in love with a knight.

The book’s presence among the library shelves went unnoticed until an elementary school student discovered it last week. 

The concept of an LGBTQ-themed book immediately provoked anger from conservative parents in the county who believe it’s inappropriate for LGBTQ-themed children’s books to exist, and prompted the board to call the meeting to determine whether the book could remain on the shelves.

According to the Mountaineer Journal, a local blog, verbal public comments will not be allowed at the meeting, but the public is welcome to submit comments in writing by emailing upshur.info@clark.lib.wv.us

Josh Layfield, the pastor of Calvary Chapel Mountain Highlands, penned a post on Facebook, urging his followers to attend the meeting, express their displeasure with the book, and demand that it be permanently banned.

“This is of great concern for everyone in this community,” Layfield wrote. “As a father of four boys, I know my boys love princes, kings, and rulers. They love knights in shining armor and they emulate these men by acting them out in play. This book is a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children, especially boys, into the LGBTQA lifestyle.

“This book is deliberately appealing to their imagination, creativity, and their innocence when they still think girls have ‘cooties'” added Layfield. “Children’s books, which are promoted by the state and put into circulation by taxpayer funds, should remain innocent. Unfortunately, this is an intentional leading of children into sin and parents and citizens within this community must be mindful with what is happening.”

He also told those who are offended by the potential removal of the book to “know that you are radically loved by a Holy God who wants to set you free from sin.” 

See also: House Republicans want Amazon to keep selling anti-gay conversion therapy books

“I know you will be tempted, and even given into such temptation to throw insults at me and those who believe like me,” he continued. “I want you to know however, that you are loved by the God of the Bible who has standards and is Holy. He came in the flesh to free you from your sins. I am praying that your eyes are opened and you put off the darkness and step into the light.”

Ahead of the public hearing, opponents of a proposed ban, led by local LGBTQ organziation Buckhannon Pride and GLAAD, began circulating a Change.org petition calling for the public library not to move forward with the ban. As of midday on Wednesday, 307 had signed the petition.

Interior shot of the Upshur County Public Library – Photo: Facebook.

“There is currently a debate on whether to keep a book in circulation or move the book to a different section at the Upshur County Public Library. The book in question is Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and is about an LGBTQ+ relationship,” wrote Amanda Vezinat, the author of the petition. “Treating LGBTQ+ books as dangerous reading material will only create more division in our community. The book was written for children to show acceptance and love, and it is important that children have access to these types of stories that’s been proven to reduce bullying, hate crimes, and suicide amongst LGBTQ+ youth.”

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis issued a statement touching on similar themes.

“The decision to remove Prince & Knight from the shelves of the Upshur County Public Library is an act of discrimination, plain and simple,” Ellis said. “Inclusive children’s books do not ‘indoctrinate’ but do allow LGBTQ families and their children the chance to see themselves reflected in the world.”

Dannie Stiles, the president of Buckhannon Pride issued a statement outlining the disrespect and mistreatment of LGBTQ people of West Virginia.

“It has been a tough year for our LGBT community within our state, from one of our state delegates using derogatory language in the people’s House, to a Drag Queen Story Time in Morgantown waving to cancel due to threats on the queens’ lives, our town’s nondiscrimination ordinance fail[ing] to pass, and now a book being censored,” Stiles said.

“LGBTQ folks are part of this great town and state. Parents of all walks of life and backgrounds use our local libraries various resources to teach community based values to their families. Things such as being kind to your neighbor, even if they do not look or love like you,” Stiles added.

Upshur County Public Library – Photo: Facebook.

“Upshur County residents and West Virginians are a hard-working, community minded people. many do not share the belief that censoring or removing of reading material of public libraries is in the best interest of the public,” Stiles continued. “Books like Prince & Knight present a unique perspective for teaching these qualities of respecting those who think, look or act differently than the reader. This series of books also offers an opportunity for loving and kind parents to teach their children community-mindedness and a respect for the LGBTQ+ population.”

You may also be interested in reading: West Chicago Public Library rejects attempt to ban gay-themed children’s book

The book’s author, Daniel Haack, rejected Layfield’s assertion that he was trying to “indoctrinate” children into the LGBTQ lifestyle.

Prince & Knight is meant to be a fun little adventure story that also just happens to better reflect the reality of millions of families not seen in other children’s stories,” he said. “If the protesters are worried that reading this book will turn someone gay, I can easily refer them to all the gay adults who grew up only reading about straight romances.”

Haack also thanked those who support the book remaining on the library shelves.

“It’s been so heartening to hear from all the local parents and community members who are standing up in support of the book and its celebration of love and acceptance,” he said. “In many ways, it’s just like the brave prince and knight facing the dragon to protect the vulnerable citizens of their kingdom, and whatever happens, the children of Buckhannon will know they still have plenty of kind, loving and inclusive neighbors.”

Read more:

Conservatives are fuming that Chick-fil-A won’t donate to anti-LGBTQ organizations any longer

American Medical Association will push for nationwide ban on conversion therapy

Two people showed up for “Straight Pride” in Dallas. Yes, two.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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