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Why a children’s story hour is drawing protesters at Nazareth’s library

The event sponsor is what caught April Gabriel-Ferretti’s eye.

The story hour slated for 11 a.m. Oct. 14 is sponsored by Moms for Liberty, a controversial group labeled as anti-government, anti-inclusion and extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

This group and events sponsored by the group have no place in the Nazareth area, Gabriel-Ferretti said. Moms for Liberty wants to ban books that tackle issues of race and human sexuality, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Gabriel-Ferretti said folks who want to ban books shouldn’t be welcome in a haven for books.

 “The pairing of Moms for Liberty and any library makes zero sense,” said Gabriel-Ferretti, who leads the pro-LGBTQ+ organization Nazareth Together. She plans to muster a crowd to picket the event.
 The president and vice president of Moms for Liberty of Northampton County didn’t return emails seeking comment, so their political positions are unclear. A post on the group’s Facebook page urges the Nazareth Area School District to remove books from schools that the group believes aren’t age appropriate.
 Library board treasurer Len Fodera said Moms for Liberty has a right to use the meeting space the same as any other community organization. The library takes no position on the politics of the organization, he said.

“We cannot deny use of space to any organization because we, or members of the public, may disagree with (the group’s) ideas and positions,” Fodera said. “Moms for Liberty has met all criteria for the use of the meeting space. To deny them access could have a chilling effect on (other) organizations.”

The national Moms for Liberty website says its mission is “to organize, educate and empower parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”

The group was formed in Florida in 2021 to combat COVID-19 safety measures in schools, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Moms for Liberty uses multiple social media platforms “to target teachers and school officials, advocate for the abolition of the Department of Education, advance a conspiracy propaganda, and spread hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Moms for Liberty of Northampton County’s Facebook page has new posts almost every day, many of which criticize the public education system. It’s peppered with slogans like “stop woke indoctrination” and “we do not co-parent with the government.”

There’s a recurring theme that the Moms for Liberty movement is misunderstood.

“I heard that someone in our community is spreading lies that Moms for Liberty is taking people’s rights away,” said a post from Sept. 25. “What?! Anyone who believes that doesn’t understand where our rights come from and doesn’t know the difference between a right and a privilege.”

If the local group shares the same anti-inclusion beliefs as the national group, it has no place in the Nazareth area, according to Jessica Dieck. She’s the secretary of the Nazareth / Lehigh Valley chapter of PFLAG. (In 2014, the organization changed its namefrom “Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” to, simply, PFLAG.)

Dieck said it’s important for folks from marginalized communities to be able to read books with characters from marginalized communities. She fears Moms for Liberty wants to ban those types of books from libraries like the Nazareth library.
 “Libraries are essential, especially in small towns where diversity, inclusion and acceptance aren’t prevalent,” Dieck said, adding, “Connections made through books give people the reassurance that they are normal, they are loved and they have value.”

Lydia Rose moved to Nazareth a few months ago. She’s a transgender woman who says she and her girlfriend, who is also transgender, were drawn to the quaint, small town. Still, they don’t feel completely at ease here.

“I think a lot of that is due to this being a smaller place and a lot of people not interacting or knowing a trans person in their life,” she said.
When she went to a local grocery store, for instance, she overheard someone say, “We need to get rid of all these trans people.” The comment was clearly intended for Rose and her girlfriend to hear. 

“It’s scary,” Rose admitted. 

Gabriel-Ferretti said Rose and other transgender individuals have a right to be comfortable in their own skin, to live and interact in the community the same as anyone else. Moms for Liberty doesn’t share that belief, she said. The library board ought to take a stand against groups that think that way, she said.

“This goes beyond politics. We’re talking about a public space where everyone should be welcome,” Gabriel-Ferretti said.

It’s not easy to find a public notice with information about the controversial story hour. Fodera confirmed it’s happening, although it’s not listed on the library’s website. Nor is it publicly listed on the Moms for Liberty of Northampton County Facebook page.

It’s listed on Rebecca Price Janney’s website. She’s the author who will moderate the program as part of her “history mystery tour.” She’s written many books through a Christian publishing house, including several books on Easton history.
Price Janney declined to share her opinion on LGBTQ+ rights.
When asked to address the story hour’s critics and to speak in support of her event, she said, “I have accepted an invitation to speak to children at the library in an exciting and interactive way about the birth of the United States Constitution, which provides for the rights of every American citizen.”
Rose knows she might be ridiculed but she plans to go to the protest anyway. She wants to show that she belongs in the Nazareth community.

“People assume that because you’re transgender, you’re an awful person. There’s more to me than that,” Rose said.

For instance, she’s a U.S. Army veteran. People used to thank her for her service. Now that she’s transgender, she less frequently receives that compliment.

“It’s very weird to go from being a hero to basically being treated like an enemy,” she said.

Gabriel-Ferretti said it’s time for the library to change its policy. The library should prevent groups like Moms for Liberty from using the meeting room, she said.

“Our plan is to peacefully assemble, to demonstrate our opposition not only to Moms for Liberty, but to the library’s policy that fails to keep groups like Moms For Liberty from using its space,” she said.