In 2007, author Sherman Alexie's book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. That's high praise indeed. Yet this semi-autobigraphical novel describing growing up on a Spokane Indian Reservation while attending an all-white secondary school, has ridden into some difficulty recently in Meridian, Idaho.
A few weeks ago, the school board voted 2-1 to ban the book because it contained sexually charged material and mocked the Christian religion. It's not particularly clear which was more offensive to the school board, the "steam" of the material or the "passion" of the Christ. But none the less, banned it became.
Literature might have been knocked to the mat, but it wasn't out for the count.
Following the ban, two Washington women held a crowd-sourced fundraiser to purchase copies of the book to distribute to the 350 students who had signed the petition protesting the board’s move. Working with a Boise bookstore, the women were able to purchase enough copies for all of the students with the publisher donating an additional 350 copies to be given away at a later date.
And give them away they did. It was in a public park this past weekend. Well, until a concerned citizen called the police. They came to see what was going on. It seems Junior Mountain View High school student Brady Kissel was distributing free copies of the novel to students who had signed a petition protesting the board’s recent decision.
Fortunately for the young people of Meridian Idaho, and the rather enlightened understanding of the police in that community, "peace" was kept and sanity restored.
The police spoke to student Brady Kissel and determined no harm was being done. The books were distributed. Literature triumphed over close-minded ignorance. And sanity returned to the sleepy community where education won out. Let's hear it for the police in Meridian Idaho.
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
Who can argue with that? Who can refuse promoting those solid, non-sectarian beliefs?
Evidently the police in northern Idaho. Ben Wolfinger, the sheriff of Kootenai County, just decided not to renew his department’s charter with a local Boy Scout troop. He had his reasons. How valid they are is another story.
He made his decision to refuse sponsorship for this national organization for one reason and one reason only. It wasn't money. It was that the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay members. According to Wolfinger, his Christian faith and reliance on biblical teachings led him to his decision. How unchristian of him. He chooses bigotry over charity.
Now sponsoring a worthwhile program like the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts of America seems like a pretty nice thing to do. Generous and uncontroversial as well. Considering the benefits to the members, the kids, the parents and the volunteers, it's to be lauded. Unless you're some kind of right-wing religious zealot.
Is this community leader, a police officer sworn to uphold the law (and that means anti-discrimination and hate laws) withholding his support? He's hiding behind the religion wildcard. Is he really saying that he can't be any support to any group that promotes equality?
According to the US Scouts Organization, the BOY SCOUT LAW:
A Scout is:
I don't see anti-Gay in there. So what's the problem?
Unless the narrow-minded Sheriff sees something there that I don't, I suggest that he turn in his badge and refuse to take his pension on religious beliefs. The police help people of all colors, races, creeds, and orientations. Sheriff Wolfinger wishes to exempt himself from that on religious belief. If that's the case, let him go.
People around the country must stop this nonsense of selectively picking and choosing which religious interpretations they want just when it suits their bigotry. This is another one of those cases and sadly, it's a black eye for law enforcement both in Idaho and in the rest of the country.
If police want to benefit from an improved community recognition, cooperation and acceptance, if they want regular people to appreciate the fine job many of them do, then giving something back to communities is just such a move. Refusing aid, help and the backing of their departments just makes them look on par with the criminals they are hired to apprehend.