Story at a glance
- A library in Mississippi raised nearly 80,000 in just eight days after it was denied funding for its refusal to remove LGBTQ+ books.
- Mayor Gene McGee, of Ridgeland, Miss., late last month said he would be withholding public funds totaling $110,000 from the library until it removes the books, citing his personal religious beliefs.
- The city’s budget, which includes public library funding, was approved in the fall, and a local official has said the mayor does not have the authority to unilaterally deny the funds to the library.
A Mississippi library has raised nearly $80,000 after it was denied public funding from the mayor’s office over its inclusion of LGBTQ+ books.
Republican Mayor Gene McGee, of Ridgeland, Miss., late last month demanded LGBTQ+ books be removed from public libraries after he reportedly received several complaints from community members.
Citing his personal religious beliefs, McGee said his office would withhold public library funds totaling $110,000 as long as the books remain on library shelves, Tonja Johnson, executive director of the Madison County Library System, told WAPT-TV last week.
“Funding for this year was being withheld until we removed what he called ‘homosexual material’ from the library,” Johnson said. “His reasoning that he gave was that, as a Christian, he could not support that, and that he would not release funding until we remove the material.”
Johnson added that the library board planned to request a public hearing before the Ridgeland Board of Aldermen, which had already approved the city budget in the fall. Alderman Ken Heard told WAPT-TV that the mayor does not have the power to unilaterally deny the funds to the library.
In response to McGee’s withholding of the funds, the library through its Friends of the Ridgeland Library volunteers group launched a fundraising campaign with a modest goal of just a few thousand dollars to avoid layoffs. Eight days later, the campaign had accrued more than $77,000 in donations from nearly 2,000 people.
“We are amazed and humbled by the overwhelming support and generosity you have shown,” Teresa Gerald, president of the Friends of the Ridgeland Library, said in a statement posted to the fundraiser’s webpage. “Please know that your donations will be used to help ensure that our library’s collections and programs continue to reflect the diversity of our community and will remain uncensored.”
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