February 21st, 2020

Local man claims he and other ‘Christians’ are being stifled by the library’s social media

By Collin Gallant on June 1, 2018.


A Medicine Hat man with a history of commenting on gay and transgender issues, says the Medicine Hat Library is promoting certain viewpoints while dampening opposition, both in contradiction of what its mandate should be.

Officials with the library say they don’t favour any particular viewpoint, but will work on developing a social media policy.

Sheldon Johnston ran for the Libertarian Party of Canada in a 2016 federal byelection and has been a vocal opponent of gay-straight alliances in schools as proposed by the Alberta government.

He says in a letter to the editor that a social media post from the library, which describes a visible volunteer’s decision to live as a woman, appears to favour those with supportive comments.

Johnston states few comments “denounce transgenderism,”, and at least one appears to slander Christians by posting a link to material in support of gay-conversion therapy — a practice he claims Christian congregations do not support.

“Christians is this community have been models of respect and tolerance,” he wrote. “We do not wish to become targets for marginalization, but deserve to be treated with dignity and appreciation.”

He concludes that libraries should be responsible for fostering socially responsible presence in Alberta and should avoid stating opinions of divisive issues rather than “resorting to controversial methods of establishing ‘politically correct’ opinions.”

Chief librarian Ken Feser tells the News his organization values intellectual freedom and doesn’t take sides. He said the library board is working on a social media policy to make that clear to the public, but stresses he feels social media moderators have acted appropriately.

“At no time has the library acted out of preference for any ideological position,” he wrote in an emailed response to News questions. “The library has moderated comments and otherwise acted in an effort to protect the safety and dignity of individuals. No individual or group has been prioritized above any other.”

On May 21, the library Facebook account featured a message briefly describing that a longtime male volunteer has chosen to live as a women.

The post stated that staff were in full support, and patrons who may be curious were encouraged to approach Karen who was pictured and discuss the issue.

The volunteer is also taking part in the facility’s “Human Library Catalogue” program, in which patrons can arrange a meeting with a person to discuss particular interests or life experiences.

“She is finally living as her true self,” the post reads. “We are so proud of her for being true to who she really is!”

Most comments on the page are supportive, but at least four express some level of disappointment in the library’s post.

Another e posted a link to webpages critical of a California law that included advertising services to convert gays and lesbians into heterosexuals as fraudulent and therefore illegal under consumer protection laws.

Johnston takes issue with that stating churches do not provide such therapy. He also states that an older post on the library site which promotes a featured book — Joel Edgerton’s book “Boy Erased” — is offensive.

It included the jacket description “the teenage son of a small-town Baptist pastor (is) faced with an ultimatum: attend gay conversion therapy or be permanently exiled and shunned.”

Feser says the library provides material from a variety of viewpoints.

“In our collections and services we seek to present information from all perspectives,” he wrote. “The library is and should be a place where citizens can learn, research issues and come to their own conclusions.”

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