ClarkCountyToday.com Editor Ken Vance shares his thoughts on the issue of Drag Queen Story Hour events at community libraries
Some of you who have read my columns for many years might recall an anecdote I shared nearly five years ago when I was the editor of The Reflector Newspaper. I believe most of you will be reading this for the first time, but for those of you who have listened to me share this memory before, thanks for indulging me. I believe it is a message that is worth your time and the reason I’m sharing it again is due to a different issue in our community than that time back in 2014.
I spent many years as a member of the First Church of God in Vancouver. For most of those years, I was among the many members who absolutely hung on to the every word of longtime Senior Pastor Gerald Marvel.
Pastor Marvel passed away in 2007 but many of his words will live in me until the day I die. He was a great storyteller. Each of his sermons were littered with anecdotal tales that he would use to illustrate the message or scripture that he was focusing on that particular Sunday.
I will never forget the story he shared one day about the early times of the First Church of God, when it was much smaller and located near downtown Vancouver and not at its current location on NE 78th Street near Hazel Dell.
Pastor Marvel said there was a small group of older ladies who sat front and center each week at their little church. After one Sunday service many years ago, the ladies confronted Pastor Marvel with what they thought to be a pressing matter.
“Do you realize the 42nd Street prostitutes are attending our church?’’ Pastor Marvel said, recalling the incident many years later.
Pastor Marvel told us that his response to the ladies was this, “Well, where do you want them to go?’’
Editor’s note: I don’t recall the exact street number of the prostitutes the pastor said the ladies were referring to, so I apologize to all residents of 42nd Street at that time if it was a different road or avenue.
After the telling of the anecdote, Pastor Marvel went on with his sermon to ask members of the congregation some questions.
“Are prostitutes welcome in our church? Are adulterers welcome in our church? Are homosexuals welcome in our church?’’ the pastor asked.
You could hear a pin drop in that sanctuary. It was a spine-tingling moment. After the appropriate pause, I’m sure to allow us to search our inner souls, Pastor Marvel answered the question himself.
“If they’re not, then I don’t know what we’re doing here. If they’re not, then we’re totally lost,’’ he said.
It’s been many years since I listened to Pastor Marvel deliver that sermon. I apologize to him, and his family, for any details or words that I didn’t recall exactly, but I’m comfortable and confident that I’ve accurately conveyed the pastor’s message that day.
I attempt to live my life without sitting in judgment of anybody. I believe I’m tolerant of others. I’ve told you before, my dad taught me that what goes on in our neighbor’s yard is none of our business and what goes on in our yard is none of theirs. I believe my moral compass was validated that day by Pastor Marvel, a man of God whom I had a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for.
Here comes the proverbial but.
But, I just can’t support the national movement that has led to community libraries all over the country holding Drag Queen Story Hour events for children, including one held at the Vancouver Community Library in February. Two weeks later, a packed house of area residents showed up to voice their opinions at a Vancouver Regional Library Board of Trustees meeting, covered by ClarkCountyToday.com.
Fort Vancouver Regional Library Executive Director Amelia Shelley admitted to those who gathered at the Feb. 19 meeting that the idea for the Drag Queen Story Hour event was born while she and others were on a trip to a national conference.
“A number of us attended a national conference about a year ago, and one of our employees attended a program there having drag queen story hours. Basically a how-to program,” Shelley said at that meeting. “And so that person brought the idea back to the district and asked if it could be something they did at their library.”
So, that tells me the event wasn’t created organically. It’s not in response to a child or a group of children who have expressed interest in the events. It’s not even in response to a child or children who are confused and looking for answers to difficult questions. A quick check of the internet confirms it’s a national agenda, which bothers me greatly. This movement is being driven by adults who want to introduce the issues to the minds of children.
In July, a second Drag Queen Story Hour event was held as part of the Pride in the Park event in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park. Just as was the case with the first Drag Queen Story Hour event held at the Vancouver Community Library, I did not attend. But, I have viewed plenty of photos from the June event at Esther Short Park and I won’t share any of those photos at ClarkCountyToday.com. They’re just not appropriate. I don’t think any respectful, news organization with integrity would share some of those photos and I certainly don’t believe young children should be at an event where those very adult-themed actions are taking place.
I am told another large crowd will attend the next Fort Vancouver Regional Library Board of Trustees meeting, to be held Mon., Sept. 16 at the Battle Ground Community Library. Gary Wilson, a Clark County resident who helps operate the website www.keepthelibrarysafeforchildren.com says his group has collected 2,900 signatures of area residents who vow to vote against a levy lid increase for the library coming up for renewal in 2020.
At the February FVRL Board of Trustees meeting, Shelley said the February Drag Queen Story Hour was not funded by taxpayers, however, I have to agree that I would not support funding for a library or an executive director who support adult-themed events for children, especially when it was an attempt to satisfy a national agenda.