By James Finn | DETROIT – You probably haven’t heard of CatholicVote, which calls itself “America’s top Catholic advocacy organization” and also a “community of patriotic Americans.” You may remember the time their YouTube video went viral because people mistook it for side-splitting parody. When the public learned CatholicVote were serious, the video became one of the most downvoted in YouTube history.
Reclaim your public library? Whose library?
I’ll spill those juicy details in a minute, because the video speaks powerfully to what the group is doing now — trying to empty public library shelves of LGBTQ-themed books during Pride month by lying, cheating, and working to force religious beliefs on Americans of different faith traditions or no faith tradition.
The new CatholicVote campaign implies public libraries belong to only certain kinds of Americans, and certainly not to LGBTQ Americans. Here’s what’s happening:
What is CatholicVote’s Hide the Pride campaign?
CatholicVote just launched “Hide the Pride,” which they call “a parent-led movement to empty local taxpayer-funded libraries of progressive sex- and gender-related content aimed at children.”
“It’s June!” proclaims their web page. “Do you see rainbow-trans-BLM flags everywhere? Including in your public, taxpayer-funded spaces? We do. And we are meeting the challenge head-on.”
The group don’t explain why the rainbow’s message of love and inclusion is a “challenge.” Nor do they say what they have against Black Lives Matter, why Catholics should oppose working to make Black people safe from police, or what BLM has to do with LGBTQ equality. (One senses they are not commenting with empathy on the intersectionality of oppression.)
They DO say they don’t want children, ANYBODY’S CHILDREN, to be able to access library books written for or about LGBTQ young people. By “meeting the challenge,” CatholicVote means sending armies of supporters to public libraries, multiple library cards in hand, to check out all the LGBTQ-themed books they can find on display — not to read them, to keep them out of the hands of people who want to read them.
They also suggest hiding books high up on shelves where people won’t spot them.
Will CatholicVotes’s crowd-sourced censorship work?
Danika Ellis of the library/book magazine Book Riot says probably not. She says librarians routinely order more copies of popular (frequently checked out) books, and of books that disappear, so the tactic will likely backfire in the long run even if it empties a few shelves this June.
Who are CatholicVote?
The group is not part of the official Catholic Church, but they claim a large conservative-Catholic membership. Based in Madison, Wisconsin, the group is split into three entities: a main advocacy group that runs public campaigns like Hide the Pride, a political action committee (PAC) that funds conservative (almost always Republican) politicians, and a 501(c)3 tax-deductible program split into education and legal action funds.
In their latest annual report, they claim 282,000 social media followers and 3,000 volunteers nationwide, though they do not disclose financials.
They appear to be at least moderately well funded, sometimes producing slick media and direct-mail campaigns. According to the political transparency watchdog Open Secrets, the CatholicVote PAC spent roughly 877,000 USD in the 2019/2020 electoral cycle, split between media campaigns and donations to conservative politicians.
CatholicVote VIDEO making the case that U.S. Catholics are oppressed because they can’t force other Americans to follow Catholic marriage teachings. This video with almost 2M views, has only 6K likes and has become one of the most down voted videos in YouTube history.
What’s with CatholicVote trying to force religion on people?
This is where that hilarious YouTube video comes in. In 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled equal marriage is a constitutional right, CatholicVote released a video in which actors, some of whom shed tears, claim they are being “oppressed” because they can’t restrict marriage to the general public based on their private religious beliefs.
Many people thought the video was an Onion-style parody. Going by the comments section, some people today still take it for one.
Other commenters understand the video is sincere and write things like, “I’m so sorry for you. I can’t believe how much people getting rights they deserve and being treated equally completely ruins your life.”
The video is a real shocker.
I mean think about it, as a gay man, I have no say over who Catholic people marry. My opinion is irrelevant, as it must must be. Catholic people must be free to marry (or not to marry) anyone they choose. They must be free to practice their religion as they see fit.
But freedom to practice religion isn’t enough for CatholicVote
They want their private religious beliefs to dictate MY marriage, even though my marriage has nothing to do with them, their religion, or their Church.
They claim that if I oppose them forcing their religion on me, I’m oppressing them, and they can literally cry over it.
But don’t take it from me. The Daily Kos called it the “dumbest f‑ing video in the entire history of the Internet,” while acknowledging many people found comic relief in it:
The theme “you are not alone,” is sure to resonate with the many Americans who feel they are fast losing their entitlement to obnoxiously lord their sincerely held belief in their own inherent supremacy over their fellow US citizens.
“Not Alone” also educates people that anti-gay Americans are the real oppressed victims who are now suffering so much that they are crying real tears on cue and on camera.
Now CatholicVote insist the general public parent children based on private Catholic religious beliefs, whether parents are Catholic or not
So, CatholicVote wants supporters to use dishonest tactics to keep or hide books from people. Is that really a big deal? I mean, isn’t this funny? Catholics scampering around evading librarians and hiding books? Almost as funny as that dumb video? Sure, it’s at least chuckle worthy!
But, and this is big:
LGBTQ kids are at severe risk. They think about and act on suicide at rates that are 4 to 5 times higher than their cis/straight peers. Over 40% of homeless teens in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ, a staggeringly disproportionate number analysts say is driven by family rejection, largely over religious beliefs.
According to The Trevor Project, things are getting worse not better as conservatives trumpet their anti-LGBTQ hatred more and more loudly. Their crisis lines started getting swamped last fall, and call volumes continue to increase.
One thing we know for sure about LGBTQ youth is that when they see themselves represented in media and books, their mental health improves. When they have safe havens like libraries where they can shelter from scorn and disapproval, they are less likely to suffer harm.
In light of that, I’d like to ask the people at CatholicVote a question: Are you willing to accept the moral responsibility for feeding into the frenzy that’s hurting LGBTQ kids?
I’d also like to ask them why they think other people’s kids are any of their business. I’d like to tell them that if they don’t want their own kids seeing LGBTQ people represented positively in books, that they can supervise their children and restrict their children’s access to books.
I don’t think that’s a good idea, personally, but just like with decisions about who Catholic people marry, it’s none of my business. And that works both ways.
Hey, CatholicVote, what MY kids read at the library is none of YOUR business. A large majority of Americans (including a majority of Catholic lay people, according to PEW and PRRI) support LGBTQ equality and inclusiveness.
So, how about you back off? How about you admit that if you have to use sneaky tactics to keep books from people, you’ve fallen off a moral cliff?
Censorship sucks. Hiding books sucks. Checking out books so people can’t read them is pathetic, as pathetic as crying crocodile tears because you can’t force your religion on people.
James Finn is a columnist for the LA Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]
The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.