Republican Complains of ‘Hostile Work Environment’ for White, Christian Men

Amid failed attempts to remove funding from libraries that have books former Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert finds offensive, the Republican criticized the State Library Board on Monday for creating a “hostile work environment” for white Christian men.

On Friday, six members of the Arkansas State Library Board rejected two motions put forth by Rapert to withhold state funding from public libraries for the presence of certain books that he classifies as “obscene or pornographic.” Rapert remained the only member to vote for the motions. Among the list of books Rapert found objectionable at the meeting included books with LGBTQ themes and characters.

Rapert, who was appointed to the board by state Republican governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders in 2023, took to his Save the Nation talk show on Monday, following the rejected motions, to criticize the board.

Little Rock Nine memorial, north entrance of the Arkansas State Capitol building in the background. Little Rock Arkansas. Amid failed attempts to remove funding from libraries that have books former Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert…

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Rapert, who is known for his conservative stance and the founder of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, took aim at the board alleging they created a “hostile work environment” for Christian white men for what he says is due to him speaking out on the issue.

“I’m the only white member on the board and I believe they’ve created a hostile work environment for a Christian white male on the [library] board because they absolutely can’t stand it that I’m speaking up to say we need to do something about these nasty books,” Rapert said.

Newsweek has reached out to the Arkansas State Library Board via email for comment.

In addition, shortly after the vote on Friday, Rapert took to X, formerly Twitter, to share similar criticisms pointing out the all-female board.

“I am appalled that women are okay allowing sexually explicit materials to be made available to little kids. It is crazy,” Rapert wrote on X.

However, during the meeting on Friday, board Chairwoman Deborah Knox said the board does not “have any way to determine which libraries might be knowingly making obscene materials available for children.”

“I’m having a hard time believing that any of our public libraries are doing that, and I would hate to approve a motion inhibiting distribution of funds to those libraries when we have no way of knowing if those libraries even exist,” Knox added.

Meanwhile, Rapert fired back stating that his survey results, which he said revealed the presence of 352 “objectionable” books, prove otherwise.

However, Rapert did not say how many of the state’s dozens of library systems responded or did not respond to the survey. The motions come amid an ongoing lawsuit on the state’s Act 372, which would regulate books in libraries and criminalize librarians who do not comply with the rules. However, parts of the law were blocked after libraries, bookstore owners, and patrons sued.

Rapert had also previously attempted to block funding for the libraries involved in the suit in February, but the motion failed.

In a statement emailed to Newsweek, Rapert said he made the remark about the board creating a “hostile environment” to highlight the controversy surrounding the issue, adding that he will also continue to make motions to withhold funds from public libraries that are actively suing the state at every Arkansas State Library Board meeting: “There is no public good that comes from using taxpayer money to expose children to these books.”

“My intent is to force public libraries to protect children from materials that are clearly inappropriate based upon any sense of decency, morality, and concern for children. In making a point about my shock about serving on a public board with other adults who have done nothing to help stop this insanity, I made the reference to highlight the controversy. I am the only male serving on the board and it is obvious from the actions of the other board members that they really do not want a conservative Christian man like myself raising these public objections. I will continue to force them to vote publicly on these issues so that the entire state of Arkansas will know they are failing to protect children and fulfill their duty to properly administer funds for Arkansas libraries,” Rapert said.

The recently denied motions is part of a larger trend across the country where there has been a significant rise in the number of challenges to library books, often driven by conservatives that have pushed for the censorship of books containing content related to LGBTQ+ themes, racial issues, or other sensitive topics. States like Texas and Florida have already seen new laws and school board policies that have led to the removal or restriction of books from school libraries.

Update 05/15/24, 7:28 p.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from Rapert.