Reverend Justin Hylden Addresses Ashland Public Library Book Controversy

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Reverend Justin Hylden

At the last meeting of the Ashland Public Library Board, seven other clergy and I made a statement supporting the trustees’ decision to keep three books that others say should be removed or moved to another section of the library.

We understand that many fear that these books will harm their children. We understand this because we all want the best for our children.

In the midst of these feelings, we pray that “the best angels of our nature” may ease our fear.

There is room for disagreement. These disagreements make us better people. They offer parents the opportunity to share these differences with their children. They make it easy to have those conversations regardless of your beliefs.

There is nothing traumatic in these books. They offer children and parents the opportunity to discuss topics important to children during their formative years.

We do not agree that these books constitute child pornography. There are anatomically illustrative representations of the human body suitable for their age group. Parents may differ as to when — at what age — these conversations are best.

Yet being exposed to the contents of these books will cause no harm.

These books affirm the diversity of the people who live in Ashland.

They help children who, for various reasons, may find it difficult to love themselves. They also help children love others, even when their personal experiences are different from their own.

The availability of these books will help parents raise their children. Other parents will choose other books or maybe no books at all.

We believe that the job of the library is to provide information. Parents can decide what is or is not suitable for their children. Moms and dads will make different decisions for their children. We support parental controls in this regard.

It is the diversity that exists within the church. This is the diversity that exists in our city.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile…for in its welfare you will find your welfare. As Christians, our role is not to create a Christian city, but rather to love and honor the diversity of the city that exists. This means in this context, maintaining accessibility to these books.

As we struggle and strive to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” may we continue to disagree in charity. That all hate mail directed at the library, its staff and its board cease. It is contrary to the way of Jesus.

May “the best angels of our nature” allay our fear.

May we live in the disorder of freedom, seeking the welfare of our neighbor rather than personal comfort; and may we always seek to build bridges of dialogue, not that we will all agree, but that we will understand each other better.

Reverend Justin D. Hylden is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Ashland. He enjoys serving this community through Rotary, Ashland Young Professionals and the Ashland Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors.

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