In yet another instance of people with power wanting to stomp out diverse books, Gene McGee, who serves as the mayor of Ridgeland, Mississippi, has refused to send more than $100,000 to the Madison County Library System (which represents about 5% of its yearly budget) because… He’s upset libraries are carrying LGBTQ+ books. As reported by the Mississippi Free Press, McGee told Tonja Johnson, who serves as executive director of the library system, that he wasn’t going to send the anticipated quarterly payment because there were books that went against his Christian beliefs in the system.
“He explained his opposition to what he called ‘homosexual materials’ in the library,” Johnson told the Free Press. “That it went against his Christian beliefs, and that he would not release the money as the long as the materials were there.” When Johnson reminded McGee the library serves an “entire community” with diversity, McGee reportedly said that the library can serve whoever it wants, but that he “only serves the great Lord above.” (I feel like I’m writing a satire piece, but I promise you, I am not!)
Johnson stressed that the money would be divided between salaries, programming efforts, and buying new materials. She told the outlet that if the money continues to be withheld, it could lead to job losses. She explained that the board is “not able” to move money around in order to keep positions open.
McGee, who has been mayor of Ridgeland since the late 1980s, didn’t attend a board meeting hosted by Ridgeland Library on Tuesday, where people discussed books in the library’s catalogs, including LGBTQ+ titles. Folks in attendance wanted to know if the mayor had any actual authority to withhold funds from the system for this reason, and Bob Sanders, who serves as counsel for the board, said no.
Some of the books McGee is opposed to are… literal children’s books, as well as adult books. Titles include Heather has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, The Queer Bible by Jack Guinness, and Granddad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate.
The money, by the way, is taxpayer money. According to Johnson, it had already been approved in the city budget for 2021-2022 as the first quarter payment. It seems that McGee would have no specific authority to override the budget, especially if the city council isn’t in agreement with him.
As of Tuesday’s meeting, council members agreed to challenge McGee’s outrageous ultimatum with the city alderman.
If conservatives can't ban or burn books, they’ll apparently try to withhold funds until public spaces concede or slowly crumble until no one can enjoy their precious resources. So much for caring for others, right?