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S0Noma
12-01-2007, 09:12 AM
Lower Macungie residents in uproar over tale about two men.
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Jeff Issa, (center) and his wife Eileen, voice their complaint about the book 'King & King,' being in the Lower Macungie Township library to the board on Thursday. (Kathleen X. Cook, Allentown Morning Call / November 29, 2007)

By Kevin Amerman | Of The Morning Call
November 30, 2007

Storytime ceased abruptly when the picture book Eileen Issa was reading her 2 1/2-year-old son surprisingly ended with two men marrying and smooching.

The tale about a disgruntled queen who demanded that her son marry a princess looked like the average children's book to the mother of two when she scooped it up along with about nine others at the Lower Macungie Library. She had no idea the book has been the subject of a federal lawsuit and controversy in other parts of the country.

''I saw them at the altar and I said, 'This can't be what I'm thinking,''' Eileen Issa said, recalling illustrations of the prince holding hands with and kissing his new husband. ''I was sick.''

Since that day, Issa and her husband, Jeff, have demanded that the library take it out of circulation.

The book will remain on the shelf despite the Issas' complaints and about 40 signatures they've gathered from residents who agree. The library's board of directors on Thursday denied the couple's request for the second time and the township supervisors, who appoint the library directors, have chosen not to overrule the decision.

''I just want kids to enjoy their innocence and their time of growing up,'' Jeff Issa said, explaining his persistence. ''Let them be kids … and not worry about homosexuality, race, religion. Just let them live freely as kids.''

''King & King'' is in the children's corner of the library. The only mention of its homosexual content is a small reference on the copyright page. The library's computer system also notes the classification.

Kathee Rhode, the library's director, said censoring books based on subject matter is the duty of parents, not the library. She said the library strives to provide material representing a spectrum of views and ways of life.

''That's what a public library does, and you make the choice,'' Rhode said. ''We certainly want parents to make that decision for their children -- not one parent making that decision for all children.''

Rhode said that in her three years as director, no book has been removed from the collection despite at least one other challenge of a graphic novel in the young adult section.

In fact, Rhode and Larry Schneider, vice president of the library's board of directors, said they've been advised by an American Library Association attorney that removing a book because of its subject matter could be considered unconstitutional based on case law and could open the library up to a lawsuit.

''We can't remove it,'' Schneider said.

At Jeff Issa's request, the library board said it would see if it's legal to place the book in a separate section. Board members said they doubt it is, and none of them expressed enthusiasm for the idea.

After the library denied the Issas' initial request in September, the couple wrote a letter to the township supervisors and attended a Nov. 15 township meeting to voice their displeasure. Although Supervisor Marilyn Jones agreed the book isn't suitable for the children's section of the library, the board decided by a 2-1 vote that the library's decision is final.

Supervisor Chairman Kenneth DeAngelis, who also is president of the library board, said that if the supervisors interjected, they would be micromanaging the nonprofit library. Though the supervisors appoint the library's board and tax money supports the library, he said, the board is independent.

Rhode said 30 libraries in the state have the book in their collections. It's not carried in public libraries in Allentown, Easton or Bethlehem, according to Josh Berk, a children's librarian for the Allentown Public Library. Berk said he doesn't believe there was a conscious decision on Allentown's part to not carry the book.

It's also not in Bucks County's 18 public libraries, said Martina Kominiarek, the executive director of the Bucks County Free Library. But that doesn't mean libraries in Bucks wouldn't carry it, she said.

''I was surprised we didn't own it,'' she said. ''It would be something we would have.''

The book, originally written in Dutch by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland and copyrighted in 2000, spawned a federal lawsuit in Massachusetts last year after it was read to second-graders in a public school.

Two couples claimed it violated their civil rights, but a federal judge dismissed the case, saying the couples have the right to send their children to private schools or home-school them, according to The Boston Globe.

Lawmakers in Oklahoma voted last year to withhold state funding from public libraries that don't place books containing homosexual themes in a separate section in response to complaints about ''King & King'' and other books.

Rhode said ''King & King'' was donated to the Lower Macungie Library more than two years ago -- the person who donated the book is not recorded in the system -- and has been checked out 24 times.

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