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Archive for Saturday, October 21, 2000

Religious labeling to stop

Olathe library votes to end practice

October 21, 2000

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— The Olathe Public Library board voted to stop marking books as suitable for Christians after the practice drew attention from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The board voted 5-1 Wednesday to remove the labels.

"The issue here is purely one of whether it's appropriate for a library to make such a designation, and in our view it clearly is not," said Dick Kurtenbach, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

Kurtenbach, whose group had threatened legal action, saw the labels as a violation of the establishment clause in the First Amendment. Courts have ruled that the clause prohibits governments from aiding one or all religions or giving preference to one religion.

Kurtenbach first contacted Olathe Public Library director Emily Baker about the situation a week ago and faxed her a letter on Monday.

With one member absent, the board voted 5-1 to remove the labels. He said staff members were directed to begin removing the labels Thursday.

"The stickers were never meant to offend anyone or promote any religion," board president David Ahlstrom said. "They were just put on there as a service to our patrons."

Ahlstrom said staff members began affixing the labels to books about two years ago.

Baker said the Christian label wasn't different from classifying a book as science fiction, for example. She said it wasn't doctrinal. The formula that made a book suitable for Christians was light, recreational fiction, Baker said. She said patrons want readable fiction without sex and violence.

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