Commentary: Book-Banners Who Preach a War Between Good and Evil

By Linda Hart Green

A number of books have been removed from Nassau County school classrooms and libraries. The local group, Citizens Defending Freedom, was responsible for the challenges that led to the removal, citing materials found in violation of Florida Statute 847.012. Several books were removed due to lack of circulation, but all the others were deemed to have age-inappropriate sexual content.

You may be surprised to learn that those presenting the challenges do not have children or grandchildren in the school system. Why all the concern? The mission of this organization is stated as: “To resolve breaches of liberty through local awareness, local light and local action. To educate citizens on the value of the gospel of Jesus Christ and its influence on America’s founding.”

This group is a rebranding of Common Sense Fernandina, which was founded by Jack Knocke. He brought the group under the umbrella of the larger group, Citizens Defending Freedom, in January 2022.

Citizens Defending Freedom has active chapters in Florida, Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The parent organization has a much farther national reach and is partnered with many other groups and organizations with similar goals. In an introductory video on the county group’s website, Mr. Jack Knocke, the group’s president, frames their overarching goal as a war between good and evil. Their website contains links to educational resources for parents for opting out of public education and homeschooling. They do not trust our teachers, principals, or school board to responsibly educate the children of our county despite its high overall rating. Hence, banning books is one of their goals.

Here is a brief list of some of the organizations supporting the mission of this group:

The Heritage Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom for Faith and Justice, Florida Citizens’ Alliance, Turning Point USA, America’s Future, Patriot Academy, Liberty Counsel and Liberty Pastors. Grab a coffee and do some Googling to learn more.

The Heritage Foundation is an umbrella group encompassing many of these kinds of groups.

The Heritage Foundation is mapping out a plan for a conservative takeover of the U.S. government when Trump wins the presidency, called Project 2025. One of the best articles I have read about Project 2025 is a blog post by Kristin Du Mez.

Using inflammatory language layered with innuendo, the crisis our country faces is framed as a loss of liberty for the average American, including religious liberty. The overall term for this way of thinking and this movement is Christian Nationalism or White Christian Nationalism. The movement is a cultural fusion of religion and politics. There are many books and articles being written about this movement. One I have read is titled “The Flag and the Cross,” by Philip Gorski and Samuel L. Perry. There is also a website to check out: ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org.

This group formed after Jan. 6, 2021, and is led by Amanda Tyler, who is also the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Some common denominators for Christian nationalists are: fear and distrust of minorities, immigrants and refugees; approval of violence to secure their aims; belief that America is God-ordained to prosper; belief that men are better suited to leadership roles and women to roles in home and family; and that America was founded as a Christian nation from top to bottom.

How can they condone violence? It is condoned as “righteous” when it is defending property, the “correct” social order and the purity of the country. It holds cherished assumptions about who America was, is and will be, despite history. You can see why Mr. Knocke uses words like “we are at war” to defend his cause and why the former president freely uses inflammatory language to denigrate and dehumanize “the other.”

With everything else going on in the world, are book removals in our county in Northeast Florida a big deal? Yes, they are. Book bans are not innocuous and they are not an anomaly. They are a symptom of a far greater divide among our citizens as to how they view our country and what it needs and who should lead it. Do we still have a vision of an America that self-governs as “we, the people” or will we exchange democracy for a theocracy where a small group dictates who is in charge? Christian nationalism is not the answer. Christian nationalism is neither Christian nor patriotic. As Kristin Du Mez says in the introduction to her blog post, “If you are not paying attention, you ought to be.”

First published in the “Blue Pages” a monthly newsletter of the Democratic Club of Amelia Island.

 

Subscribe
Notify of
43 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

angeldoccie2003@yahoo.com
Noble Member
[email protected](@angeldoccie2003yahoo-com)
9 days ago

I do not view this group as competent nor educated on the subject of censorship. Since they arrived they have drawn lines of division and hate among us. They are not about local issues but more about the practice of dictatorship. Most of us simply laugh at them so they are really losing any modicum of respect they may have had. BTW they are not successful in PA.

mick
mick(@mick)
9 days ago

Anyone rabid in the defense of banning books they personally object to is tantamount to tactics used by the Nazi regime to control the masses. Stand down on the ideology that you control the world.

ahefterhughes
Trusted Member
ahefterhughes(@ahefterhughes)
9 days ago

1) The article has no merit without listing which books have been removed from Nassau County school classrooms and libraries. Perhaps we wouldn’t be divided on the topic if we were given all of the information needed to assess the merit of this article. Perhaps the author knew this article wouldn’t be divisive if included? 2) Would I be surprised, or care, if the people leading the charge for these book removals do not have children or grandchildren? Not necessarily. Raising children is a business and expensive time; parents can be too busy to chase down everything that bothers them.

Sherry Harrell
Trusted Member
Sherry Harrell(@sherry-harrell)
9 days ago
Reply to  ahefterhughes

The topic of banning books, when expressed broadly can conjure up images of Nazi Germany. Perhaps that is the goal of the Democratic Club of Nassau County, but I have to agree with “ahefterhughes”. Without listing the titles of these books, one can be left thinking the worst. However, when viewed individually, some of these books have absolutely no place in our school libraries. We are a conservative county and want our children to be educated without the use of over-sexualized material. Let’s not steal our children’s innocence; they’ll lose that soon enough without our help.  

Sherry Harrell
Trusted Member
Sherry Harrell(@sherry-harrell)
9 days ago
Reply to  Sherry Harrell

“Several books were removed due to lack of circulation, but all the others were deemed to have age-inappropriate sexual content.”
Nothing else needs to be said–“age-inappropriate sexual content”.
~~~~~
Matthew 7
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

missyjean
missyjean(@missyjean)
9 days ago
Reply to  Sherry Harrell

Amen

missyjean
missyjean(@missyjean)
9 days ago
Reply to  Sherry Harrell

Totally Agree

Kathy Blacklock
Editor
Active Member
Kathy Blacklock(@blacklock)
9 days ago
Reply to  Sherry Harrell

We have added a link to a PDF listing of the books removed, which appeared in a Feb. 25 commentary as well. ~Editors

missyjean
missyjean(@missyjean)
9 days ago
Reply to  ahefterhughes

Anyone who does NOT want to remove the sex related books that are age inappropriate for kids under the age of 18 is a PEDO and they need to be investigated immediately! This has NOTHING to do with politics and EVERYTHING to do with common sense MORALS for any Society! Go look at the content of these books for yourself to determine if you want your kids and grandkids learning this in school. I have seen it and it’s absolutely SHAMEFUL 

mick
mick(@mick)
9 days ago
Reply to  missyjean

By whose standards?

Kathy Blacklock
Editor
Active Member
Kathy Blacklock(@blacklock)
9 days ago
Reply to  ahefterhughes

We have added a link to a PDF listing of the books removed, which appeared in a Feb. 25 commentary as well. ~Editors

mick
mick(@mick)
9 days ago
Reply to  ahefterhughes

Apparently, there are some people with nothing better to do…

Ben Martin
Trusted Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
9 days ago

“You may be surprised to learn that those presenting the challenges do not have children or grandchildren in the school system.”

Everyone has an interest in the school system. Especially those that pay taxes.

missyjean
missyjean(@missyjean)
9 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Exactly and if Society does not stand up for the vulnerable (young and old) the. We are not a Society!

mick
mick(@mick)
9 days ago
Reply to  missyjean

Banning books is not standing up for anyone.

Douglas M
Noble Member
Douglas M(@douglasm)
9 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

I haven’t read the article, and probably won’t, but your quote above is concerning. You are correct…..everyone who pays taxes cares about the quality of schools in the County. I don’t have children or grandchildren in the Nassau system, but I want Nassau to be the #1 school system in Florida (St. Johns is doing very well to our South).

Last edited 9 days ago by Douglas M
missyjean
missyjean(@missyjean)
9 days ago

Whoever thinks it’s a great idea to bash parents, grandparents and concerned citizens over ‘AGE INAPPROPRIATE’ sexual content in our schools should not be writing for our local paper. Someone needs to investigate and start hiring writers who care about what the Fernandina Beach citizens actually believe in and care about then more people might get involved in the community.

mick
mick(@mick)
9 days ago
Reply to  missyjean

Bearing in mind that your views might not be as universal as you believe. All of FB does not endorse book banning by a handful of salacious zealots.

Barnes Moore
Trusted Member
Barnes Moore(@barnes-moore)
9 days ago

Ok, let’s see if this post gets past the censors. If it does, I expect Linda Hart Greene to explain why she supports having this type of material in public school libraries, much less middle school libraries. Make sure you watch the videos all the way through, not just the sixth grader reading from the book. By the way, none of the books are banned as parents can still buy any of the books on Amazon or any bookstore that carries them. The use of the word “ban” in this context is meant to inflame, not to invite rational discussion.

Breitbart dot com/education/2023/02/26/watch-sixth-grader-reads-aloud-explicit-school-library-book-its-smut-really/

and one more foxnews dot com/politics/florida-school-board-removes-parent-from-meeting-for-reading-out-of-sexually-explicit-book-from-hs-library

I realize that these news sources may not be welcome to many reading here, but instead of maligning the source, comment on the content.

mick
mick(@mick)
9 days ago
Reply to  Barnes Moore

Fox News? Please…

missyjean
missyjean(@missyjean)
9 days ago

The bias of Linda Hart Green in this article is astounding. Someone needs to investigate this woman. Absolute Rubbish, enough is enough!
We need to get real journalists who have integrity and not biased views on the Fernandina Observer Staff.

Last edited 9 days ago by missyjean
Jay Kayne
Trusted Member
Jay Kayne(@jay-kayne)
9 days ago

Just to be clear, many of the commenters are the same people who screamed that parents, not the schools, should decide what is and is not appropriate for their child. Now they want to decide for all of us. To my knowledge none of the books they find so objectionable are part of the school district curriculum. So let’s be honest what is going on here. Books that CDF “blesses” are readily available in the school library to be borrowed at no cost. If a parent, for whatever reason, decides their child might learn something from a book with which CDF does not agree, the only way to access that book is to buy it.

I’m sure there are books on their list I might not want my child to read, but that should be my family’s decision. But the list includes some which make no sense at all. One example is “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” the story of a young boy who finds a key left behind by his father who died on 9/11. Yes, it contains the “f” word in ONE passage. According to the NCSD November 2023 list of banned volumes, this book was removed and deemed inappropriate for ALL grade levels. Does anyone honestly believe a high school student would not understand why someone might use the “f” word in an emotional situation such as the loss of family member on 9/11? Having read the book and seen the Tom Hanks movie based on it, it is not just about 9/11. It has value for any son or daughter who is dealing with the death of a parent.

Even so, NO ONE is telling YOU your child must read this book. What and at what age my child is capable of understanding the sometimes difficult topics an author covers and whether that book provides a good teaching moment between parent and child is not a one size fits all. So PLEASE, in the name of YOUR freedom, do not take it away from those who do not share your opinions..

Barnes Moore
Trusted Member
Barnes Moore(@barnes-moore)
9 days ago
Reply to  Jay Kayne

No one is stopping you or any parent from buying whatever books you want. The point is, what material is appropriate for public school libraries where students are able access books without their parent’s knowledge. Where do you draw the line? I did not see Gender Queer on the list of banned books. Do you really think that material should be made available without parental notification?

Jay Kayne
Trusted Member
Jay Kayne(@jay-kayne)
9 days ago
Reply to  Barnes Moore

Mr. Moore, you missed the point. Everything you agree with is FREE. Everything you don’t agree with is NOT. To be fair, you then should have to pay for everything you want your child to read.

You ask, “Where do I draw the line?” Good question. That is for me and my family to decide. Not for you to decide for me.

Barnes Moore
Trusted Member
Barnes Moore(@barnes-moore)
9 days ago
Reply to  Jay Kayne

Have you read Gender Queer and looked at the graphics included in the book? It is flat out pornography, but it is likely available in the public library if you want to pick it up for free there. You miss the point when you think such material is fine for middle or even high school students. As the parent in the article I posted noted, “What I don’t understand is how we have books in the middle school library that adults would be fired for having at work, or potentially prosecuted for sharing with children given their pornographic content. It’s smut, really.” It’s disgraceful that people in this community actually think such content should be available to students with no guardrails. Why not have Hustler and Playboy magazines available as well if they are even still published? Would you be ok with that?

Jay Kayne
Trusted Member
Jay Kayne(@jay-kayne)
9 days ago
Reply to  Barnes Moore

Why do you assume, wrongly I might add, that just because I want to reserve the RIGHT to pick and choose, I want my child to have access to everything. I have reviewed the November 2023 list of removed books and would say about half are ones I would have no objection to my middle or high school student reading. The fact you ask a ludicrous question about Playboy and Hustler, simply tells me you cannot accept that there can be a legitimate difference of opinion.

Barnes Moore
Trusted Member
Barnes Moore(@barnes-moore)
9 days ago
Reply to  Jay Kayne

It’s a simple question. Do you think pornographic materials belong in public school libraries? Books like Lawn Boy, Gender Queer and the one the 11 year old read at the school board meeting – Nick and Charlie, all contain not only graphic sexual descriptions but illustrative graphics to go with it and all have been the subject of school board meetings at schools where those books were available. If you think those books are ok, then yes, we have a big difference of opinion. I would agree that there are books on the list like what you mentioned ““Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, “The Clan of the Cave Bear” and likely some others that should not be excluded from libraries, but to paint a broad brush implying that there is complete indiscriminate banning is not honest. The intent is to keep blatant pornography out of public school libraries – unfortunately, some good books are being swept up as well and there is nothing wrong with pointing that out. But the way this article is written is frankly inflammatory and dishonest.

Jay Kayne
Trusted Member
Jay Kayne(@jay-kayne)
9 days ago
Reply to  Barnes Moore

If the three books you reference are SO offensive, why aren’t they on the list of books removed from the county school libraries? Maybe because they were NEVER in the libraries. Nor are Hustler or Playboy. Why do you raise these hypotheticals? Maybe because the situation is not as dire as folks like you want us to believe it is. Strikes me that Superintendent Burns, the principals, teachers and librarians are doing a good enough job without my or your interference.

Barnes Moore
Trusted Member
Barnes Moore(@barnes-moore)
8 days ago
Reply to  Jay Kayne

Those books and others have been on lists and have been in Florida public school libraries. It is no hypothesis, it is fact and when you and others choose to ignore those facts, it needs to be called out. Plenty of parents across the country have attempted to read from these and other books and have been silenced by school board members for reading vulgarity. Linda Hart Greene is not limiting her criticism to Nassau county, she paints with a broad brush and accuses parents of wanting to ban books when their objective is to keep pornography out of schools. That should be your objective as well.

Jay Kayne
Trusted Member
Jay Kayne(@jay-kayne)
8 days ago
Reply to  Barnes Moore

The Davis County, Utah school district banned the bible in elementary and middle school libraries. I’m a devout advocate of separation of church and state, but the bible is of significant historic and cultural importance whether you believe it is the literal word of God or hogwash. However, I doubt anyone is harmed if there is a copy on the bookshelf of a school library,

I have not followed the debate in Davis County, but I would not be surprised if that community is split on the school board’s decision. Making policy based on anecdotal situations which are the exception rather than the rule causes division. Again, putting pressure on our local educators for the actions in other counties or states makes no sense. My concerns no include any book the local school board MAY remove from the shelves. My objection is the books on the ACTUAL list of NCSB banned books which seems, in many cases, to be excessive. If you don’t like what another school district is doing, maybe you should consider holding protests in those jurisdictions.

mick
mick(@mick)
9 days ago

Elementary children with access to books with ‘inappropriate’ sexual content is misinformation. This age group does not have access to books with this type of content. Of course, if you are an adult seeking to control others, and have a filthy mind, you can make something out of anything. Book banning is inappropriate. Control your children’s media access in your own home and leave the rest of the community out of fascist control tactics.

SnappyClam
Active Member
SnappyClam(@joesnappyclam-com)
9 days ago

Somewhere there’s a tree that deserves an apology for working overtime.

Noahluvr
Member
Noahluvr(@noahluvr)
9 days ago

Censorship is a Pandora’s box…..

Sailorman
Member
Sailorman(@sailorman)
9 days ago

Citizens Defending Freedom is another example of an organization in Florida taking away a freedom to read what we want. Let the parents decide. What is their next mission: Witch Hunting?

Barnes Moore
Trusted Member
Barnes Moore(@barnes-moore)
9 days ago
Reply to  Sailorman

Again, a very dishonest comment. You continue to have the right to read whatever you want, and can allow your children to read what ever you want them to at any age. The issue is what is appropriate material for public school libraries. That’s it.

Jane Philips Collins
Active Member
Jane Philips Collins(@jane-philips-collins)
9 days ago

I agree and firmly believe that it this group is not in alignment with the American way as I know it. It is easy to google to see books that are banned. Some, I agree should not be on elementary school shelves but some are just racial discrimination. I’m particularly irritated that The Color Purple is on the list and several by Toni Morrison. And, to Kill Mockingbird, if you can believe that. I read the Catcher in the Rye, checked out from our local high school library in 1968.To think today’s young people would not be allowed to read that is just flat weird. I am also irritated that they don’t appreciate women’s leadership value. 

sneckyfarow@gmail.com
Active Member
[email protected](@sneckyfarowgmail-com)
9 days ago

Catcher in the Rye was a required book in one of my English classes in 1967. I am not familiar with all of the books that have been banned but I don’t agree with the general principle of banned books. My reading of history is that this was one of the prime things that went on in Nazi Germany. If a parent wants to try to prevent their children from reading certain books, I guess that is their perogative but they have no business preventing others from reading a book.

Barnes Moore
Trusted Member
Barnes Moore(@barnes-moore)
9 days ago

None of the books you mentioned are included in the list of books linked to this article. Sadly, book banning has been going on for a long time – Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were banned early on. The list clearly includes books that should not be taken off the shelves, but leaves out books that should be taken out of public school libraries. Taking books out of a public school library does not equate to banning the book since you can still purchase those books or likely check them out for free at the public library.

Alan Hopkins
Noble Member
Alan Hopkins(@dawaves)
9 days ago

Hard to believe somebody would claim moral authority in one breath and then help promote pedophilia in the next.

Doesn’t sound like any Christian doctrine I’ve ever heard before.

And no I don’t care who you love or sleep with. I do care about protecting innocent children. Somehow that’s been lost in all of this.

The specious arguments that these books have been banned (they have not) or are not available to parents and students without cost is absurd. You ever hear of a public library?

I do believe many of the books that are taken off the shelves at schools should be put back and available for age appreciate students. But also many that have and should be restricted never should have been there to begin with.

The real question is how did they get there in the first place?

oldtimehockey
Noble Member
oldtimehockey(@oldtimehockey)
9 days ago

“Why all the concern”?
Because they are children…. stupid!

Everyone has a responsibility to protect the innocent. Those that don’t are referred to as pedophiles, groomers or perverts.

Ms. Green, You have politicized what seems to be common sense restraint against evil. You need to repent for your sin.

rconrad
Noble Member
rconrad(@conrad2k)
9 days ago

Let the education professionals decide what is “age appropriate” to be in school libraries and bookshelves, and let parent talk to their children about what they don’t want them to read and why.

Last edited 9 days ago by rconrad
George Miller
George Miller(@george-miller)
9 days ago

There were both parents and former school officials involved in the CDF book review project. and additional submissions came directly from district employees, per CDF. Evidently, both the district book review committee and state law agreed with them, since 100% of the challenges they submitted were agreed to and either removed or moved to age appropriate categories.

In a recent News-Leader Op-Ed, County Dem Chair Melissa Moss seemed to agree that the law had been followed. She just doesn’t like the law.

In a prior article by News-Leader Editor Tracy Dishman, the removed books and authors are identified.

A recent opinion article in Citizens Journal Florida identified the worst books and a review site utilized: https://booklooks.org/. It also describes the general methodology employed by CDF to complete the project.

As far as Ms. Green’s own inflammatory rhetoric in the article used to attack CDF and anyone to the right of JFK, it appears to be lifted right out of MSNBC and the DNC and only tarnishes her case.

Last edited 9 days ago by George Miller
Douglas M
Noble Member
Douglas M(@douglasm)
8 days ago

Does anybody else find it ironic that the articles that create the most division in the comments section are written by a Minister?? This is not the first one….

As I mentioned above, I don’t read LHG’s sermons…..I read one a year or so ago then realized why I stopped going to church. Now I occasionally just go straight to the comments section when I can see a title that is probably a match thrown toward gasoline.

43
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x