The traditional family is being attacked with an unconventional weapon: children’s story books.  As books promoting a pro-homosexual ideology have slipped into public elementary-school libraries across America, unsuspecting children as young as age four have been exposed to immoral themes and content.

Such was the case when the seven-year-old daughter of Michael and Tonya Hartsell brought home the book King and King from the library at Freeman Elementary School in Wilmington, North Carolina, last year.  This book, written by Dutch authors Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland (Tricycle Press, 2002) is advertised for children as young as age six.  The publisher’s summary of the book states: “When the queen insists that the prince get married and take over as king, the search for a suitable mate does not turn out as expected.”  The true nature of this book lies in the fairy tale’s conclusion—a “very special” wedding and the marriage of Prince Bertie and Prince Lee.  The final page of the book illustrates the two princes kissing with a red heart covering their lips.  A review of the book by School Library Journal admits, “The book does present same-sex marriage as a viable, acceptable way of life.”  After a shocked and dismayed Mr. and Mrs. Hartsell filed a complaint against the school for allowing their child to have access to such a book, a school committee ultimately voted to make the book accessible only to parents and teachers.

The controversy surrounding Mr. and Mrs. Hartsell’s discovery brought my attention to an alarming situation in our public elementary schools.  Currently, all across America, elementary schoolbooks are being purchased with little or no oversight and with only reactive policies in place to allow parental complaints.  The choice of whether to expose such controversial topics as “gay marriage” to young children should be placed in the hands of parents, not librarians.  Since books are often ordered en masse based on lists of award-winning books, vague publisher or catalog descriptions, or reviews offered by journals focusing on “literary merit” rather than content or moral appropriateness, it is no wonder offensive material has leaked into public elementary-school libraries.

To address this problem, I have introduced a bill in Congress entitled the Parental Empowerment Act of 2005 (H.R. 2295).  The purpose of the legislation is to prohibit any state from receiving federal education funds unless the state has policies and procedures that require each local educational agency to maintain a parent review and empowerment council to provide input and recommendations regarding proposed acquisitions of materials for classrooms and libraries.  Five of my colleagues in Congress are cosponsors of the resolution, and I anticipate that many more will join me.

The book King and King is not an anomaly in children’s literature.  There is a whole breed of books aimed at elementary-school readers that treat homosexuality as an accepted norm.  The sequel to King and King, King and King and Family (2004), tells of the honeymoon newlyweds King Lee and King Bertie take to the jungle, where they adopt a young girl who stows away in their suitcase.  Lucy Goes to the Country (Alyson Publications, 1998) shares with children the details of a weekend spent in the country by a homosexual couple and their cat.  A review of the book by Publishers Weekly notes the book’s “arch jokes aimed at adults,” including an illustration where “one of the Big Guys makes eyes at a muscular fireman while his disgruntled partner looks on.”  The Daddy Machine (Alyson Publications, 2004) describes two children with lesbian mothers who pretend to invent a “daddy machine” because they wonder what it would be like to have a father.  The Sissy Duckling (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2002) showcases jarring illustrations of homosexual stereotypes with its story of Elmer the duck: “Elmer is not like the other boy ducklings.  While they like to build forts, he loves to bake cakes.  While they like to play baseball, he wants to put on the halftime show.  Elmer is a great big sissy.”

It is a mistake to confuse the issue of informed decisionmaking, parental involvement, and the responsible use of taxpayer dollars with attempts at censorship and assaults on intellectual freedom.  Parents who wish to teach their children traditional values such as the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman should not have to worry that certain schoolbooks will expose their children to controversial adult topics and lifestyles that conflict with those values.

Because the majority of people are unaware that these books exist in the public elementary-school libraries of America, it is vitally important to empower parents with a proactive system to screen highly objectionable materials.  If we turn a blind eye and allow attacks on traditional family values to continue unabated, there will come a day when we long for the morality our nation fostered “once upon a time.”