One leftist has ideas to prevent Kirk Cameron-style events in her community

Kirk Cameron, the former teen idol who became a devout Evangelical Christian and the father of six children, wrote a children’s book grounded in traditional values tied to the Bible (kindness, responsibility, honesty, pro-life, etc.). When he approached libraries to do a reading (the same libraries that have hosted drag queen readings about “transing” kids), he got over 50 refusals. However, Cameron was able to read in Scarsdale, New York, when he rented a meeting room (something the library was helpless to prevent).* One leftist’s response to the enthusiastic turnout for Cameron’s reading perfectly exemplifies leftists’ concern that free speech applies to their ideological opponents.

The outlet is called Scarsdale10583, and it bills itself as “Scarsdale’s #1 Community Website.” Its top article is currently one entitled “Library Overtaken by 700 Visitors to Kirk Cameron’s Story Hour.” The author is Joanne Wallenstein, who founded the site.

Image: Families at the Scarsdale Library. YouTube screen grab.

In some ways, to Wallenstein’s credit, she tries to report straight news, but her editorializing creeps in. Here’s the first paragraph, and do note the phrase “exploited free speech laws,” which I’ll return to in a minute:

An estimated 700 people turned out for a story hour with actor and evangelist Kirk Cameron at the Scarsdale Library on the afternoon of December 30, 2022. Cameron, the author of children’s book, “As We Grow,” exploited free speech laws to hold his event at Scarsdale Library. Cameron and his publisher Brave Books targeted Scarsdale because the library held a “drag queen” story hour several years ago and Cameron is preaching against what he calls “woke ideologies” in school and libraries, objecting to gay marriage, transgender and LGBTQ people and abortion. About public schools he says, “America's public schools have become incubators for far-left progressive agendas, including critical race theory, gender ideology, and Nikole Hannah-Jones' 1619 Project.” (Emphasis mine.)

In Wallenstein’s telling, the people who attended are “sympathizers,” while the library was “quickly overwhelmed.” There were so many attendees of all ages that “Scarsdale and county police were on hand to regulate the crowd.” However, Wallenstein concedes that Scarsdale Police Chief Andrew Matturro reported that “There were no incidents reported.” No surprise there. As we all remember from the Tea Party rallies, conservatives assemble cheerfully and clean up after themselves. (I will continue to believe that events on January 6 were…let’s say, “helped along” by agitators.)

But still, Wallenstein is disturbed that all these people were there in Scarsdale. And who were these people anyway? “[N]o one,” she writes, “knows where all the people came from, [and] there seemed to be few Scarsdale residents in the crowd.” This is where she directs her ire: Scarsdale had to use its resources to deal with out-of-towners coming to participate in an event that most venues had banned.

Now, some might say that Wallenstein should be proud of her public library for observing the core American principles of free speech and an open marketplace of ideas. But not Wallenstein. She used her essay to brainstorm ways to stop those darn people who “exploited free speech laws.”

Wallenstein organized her argument: The people whom the library serves the other 364 days of the year were “prevented…from the use of the facility” because the staff had to deal with the influx of people who turned out for the reading.

So, whose rights really matter here? As far as Wallenstein is concerned, it’s the ones who were denied a few hours of peace and quiet in the library:

What does this bode for the future? Will other outside political groups request use of the community’s new library? This event demonstrates the strain these type of gatherings put on Village resources. Extra police coverage from the Village and the county was required, as turnout was unpredictable and the building could easily become overwhelmed. Who should pay for this coverage?

[snip]

Do the rights of political groups from outside the community trump the rights of residents? Perhaps the library can re-examine their bylaws to draft workable parameters for use of this public space. These are questions that the Library Board and Village Board will need to examine in upcoming months.

I wonder whether Wallenstein would be asking the same questions if a huge crowd turned up for a drag queen reading. Certainly, there were Scarsdale residents who were certain that “his rhetoric was unfit for Scarsdale”:

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* The library made it incredibly clear to everyone involved that it did not approve of Cameron’s appearance and would do nothing to publicize it, including listing it as a library “event.” However, the library has hosted and promoted a drag queen story hour.

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