Just in time for Banned Books Week, the Cleveland, Texas, city council declined to act on a local pastor’s request that the public library remove all occult-themed books, including the wildly popular Vampire Knight manga series, from its young-adult room.
As we previously reported, Rev. Phillip Missick of the King of Saints Tabernacle Church addressed the city council on Aug. 12, demanding the “occultic and demonic room be shut down, and these books be purged from the shelves, and that public funds would no longer be used to purchase such material, or at least require parents to check them out for their children.”
He also complained about the decor of the Young Adult room, which includes a Sorting Hat and a figure of Dobby the Elf, both from Harry Potter, and a bouquet of dried roses. (We’ll get back to the roses.) Missick filed a formal Statement of Concern with the library, asking for the removal of five specific books, and he wrote a letter requesting a general ban on anything with an occult theme, saying, “As ministers of Christ, it is our responsibility to ‘watch’ and ‘warn’ against Satanic assaults against the hearts and minds of our children.”
Mary Merrell Cohn, head librarian of the Austin Memorial Library, responded with a 123-page statement, which she presented to city council at its Sept. 9 meeting. It boils down to this: “After reading these books, which were merely fantasies, I personally did not have any desire to perform any immoral, dark or sinister acts. Of course, everyone has their own opinion after reading these books and others like them, but that is the point.”
Cohn also shared the letters of support she had received from around the country, as well as from local residents. While she didn’t address the Sorting Hat or Dobby figure, she pointed out there’s nothing “occultic” about dried roses. “It is a way to preserve flowers,” she said, adding that the roses in question were sent to her by her husband.
All the cited books remain in the library, and the city council took no formal action. However, council members declined to recognize Banned Books Week: A resolution had been prepared, but Mayor Niki Coats declined to sign it, saying, “It is unfair that the banned book week falls on this week.”
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