‘Captain Underpants,’ ‘Harry Potter’ Have No Place in Clay Higgins’ World
In the warped world of Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., “Captain Underpants” and “Harry Potter” would be exiled and public libraries would be replaced by “church owned” libraries.
It’s no surprise that Higgins, a born again Christian, disgraced former law enforcement officer and honorary “Kentucky Colonel,” is joining the drumbeat spreading in red states across the country to rid libraries and schools of books filled with prurient interests, like the “Captain Underpants” and “Harry Potter” series.
The self-proclaimed book police also want to ban books that have anything to do with racism in America which is born out by the fact that six of the 10 most censored books of 2021 were written by or have as central characters people of color. Roughly half have female protagonists, according to the American Library Association.
“Over time, American communities will build beautiful, church owned public-access libraries. I’m going to help these churches get funding. We will change the whole public library paradigm. The libraries regular Americans recall are gone. They’ve become liberal grooming centers,” said Higgins, a member of the House Oversight and Homeland Security Committees, who never graduated from college, was married four times and would likely not be familiar with many of the titles and content of books that have become the targets of right wing fanatics.
Higgins wants to “get funding” for faith-based libraries owned by churches. Note he referred to churches and not such non-Christian places of worship like synagogues and mosques.
Higgins may not know it but church libraries have a long history in the United States. Beginning as early as 1638, colonial churches began to build collections of religious texts and manuscripts to support their congregations.
By 1932, there were more than 1,000 church libraries in the United States. But by the 1970s there were only around 100 church libraries, for a variety of reasons including changing social attitudes towards religion and decreasing congregation numbers. There has been a resurgence of interest in church libraries in part because of the growth in technology. Today, more than 2,500 church libraries provide religious materials, programming, and resources for members of congregations nationwide.
First, here’s a bit about the freshman congressman, first elected in 2016 to represent Louisiana’s 3rd congressional district, which covers the southwestern and south central portion of the state, ranging from the Texas border to the Atchafalaya River.
His first wife was Eloisa Rovati. They had a daughter who died a few months after she was born. Higgins and Rovati divorced and Rovati later died in an automobile crash.
Higgins then married Rosemary “Stormy” (yes another Stormy) Rothkamm-Hambrice. He adopted her child from a previous marriage, and they had two more children together, before they divorced in 1999. Higgins’s then married Kara Seymour but that marriage also didn’t last and they divorced. Undaunted, Higgins married his fourth and current wife, Becca.
During his 2020 campaign, Higgins alerted the public because, he said, his wife, Becca, “has the gift of premonition” and awoke “crying from a nightmare of an apocalyptic future where federal officials seize their guns, knives and other items.”
In 2016, Rothkamm-Hambrice sued Higgins for $140,000 of unpaid child support. She had previously received a protective order after claiming that Higgins “had put a gun to my head before, during an argument. He threatened that if I ever came near the house he would shoot me.”
Hill attended but failed to graduate from Louisiana State University. He is one of just nine representatives who did not have a four-year, college degree. The others include Lauren Boebert, R-Color.; Cori Bush, D-Mo.; Jerry Carl, R-Ala.; Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.; Yvette Herrell, R-N.M.; Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.; Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y.; and David Valadao, R-Calif.
Boebert has said that her family depended on welfare when she was growing up and that she dropped out of high school during her senior year in 2004 when she had a baby. She earned a GED certificate in 2020, a month before her first election primary.
Bush has a graduate diploma in nursing, and Herrell earned a legal secretary diploma.
In the Senate, only Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., has no undergraduate degree. He does have an associate degree from the Oklahoma State University of Technology.
Higgins had a less than stellar career in law enforcement.
As public information officer for the St. Landry Parish, Higgins gained the nickname, the “Cajun John Wayne,” for his celebrated taunting of criminal suspects on Crime Stoppers segments that went viral on the Internet. He resigned from the St. Landry Parish after he was ordered to tone down his rhetoric.
In one segment, Higgins is shown holding an assault rifle, while calling out an alleged gang member being sought by the authorities, telling him, “Young man, I’ll meet you on solid ground, anytime, any where, light or heavy (meaning carrying weapons). It makes no difference to me. You won’t walk away.”
Higgins has spoken at events organized by right wing, anti-government militia groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers.
Higgins served in the Louisiana National Guard for fix years and worked for several years managing car dealerships. He was hired in 2004 as a patrol officer for the Opelousas City Police Department. Three years later, he resigned rather than face a disciplinary hearing that he allegedly used unnecessary force on a subject during the execution of a warrant and later lied about it.
Higgins worked for the Port Barre Police Department through 2010 and in 2011, joined the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office. He was named as public information officer, and made videos for the parish Crime Stoppers program. After resigning from St. Landry Parish, in March 2016, Higgins was accepted as a part-time, reserve deputy marshal in the city of Lafayette. He retired his commission in 2019. Higgins was awarded the honorary title of Kentucky Colonel in March 2016 by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.
The wave of right wing angst over books in schools and libraries seems to be gaining steam, from supporters like Higgins.
In 2021, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to public library, school and university material involving 1,597 books. It was, by far, the most challenges recorded over the last two decades.
The most banned book of 2021 was “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe. It recounts Kobabe’s journey from adolescence to adulthood and the author’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality, ultimately identifying as being outside of the gender binary. “Gender Queer” was banned, challenged, and restricted “for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images.”
Other banned books have included “George” by Alex Gino “for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting ‘the values of our community.’” “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds was banned “because of claims that the book contains ‘selective storytelling incidents’ and does not encompass racism against all people.”
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee was banned “for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a ‘white savior’ character, and its perception of the Black experience.” “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, was criticized and banned “for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students.”
Frequently banned were the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling “for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use ‘nefarious means’ to attain goals.” Another perennially banned series were the “Captain Underpants” books by Dav Pilkey because “it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior.”
Other banned books included, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, for “profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda.”
“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison was challenged “because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.”
“This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson was restricted “for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.”
“A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” by Jill Twiss, came under fire because of “LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is ‘designed to pollute the morals of its readers’ and for not including a content warning.”
Groups calling for the censorship of books in libraries and classrooms should consider the Catholic church’s experiences with censorship. In 1559, Pope Paul IV issued the Vatican’s first Index of Prohibited Books, with witch hunts impacting many countries, where so-called heretics were persecuted. The list censored the bodies of work of 550 authors and dozens of publishers.
Those condemned for their beliefs and writings included astronomer Galileo Galilei for saying the earth revolved around the sun. French Dominican theologian Yves Congar’s 1950 book “True and False Reform in the Church” was banned for claiming that the church as a human institution was capable of getting in the way of God’s grace and needed reform.
The attack on public libraries is widespread. Among the louder voices are Trent Talbot, co-CEO and founder of “Brave Books” and “Moms for Liberty,” a group criticized for harassing educators while pushing for book bannings.
Talbot began hosting conservative story hours at public libraries around the nation late last year to oppose “Drag Queen Story Hours.” He stepped away from his medical practice to found Brave Publishing Co. in 2020, a publisher of kids’ books featuring Christian and right wing themes. Shortly after it was created, Brave began publishing children’s books by right wing authors, including Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas; conservative actor and evangelical Christian, Kirk Cameron; and Libs of TikTok’s Chaya Raichikm, a far right, anti-LGBTQ commentator. Talbot also has published children’s books by former trump press secretary Sean Spicer and radio host Dana Loesch, a right wing radio host.
Brave Books has partnered with “Moms for Liberty” to “restore the Blessings of Liberty to future generations.”
Moms for Liberty claims to advocate for parental rights in schools. The organization has campaigned against COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates, and against school curriculums that mention LGBT rights, race, critical race theory, and discrimination. Many chapters have campaigned to ban from school libraries books that address gender and sexuality issues.
In furtherance of their agenda, group members have harassed parents and school officials.
In 2021, the Indian River County, Fla. chapter requested the local school board remove from school libraries 51 books the group “deem(ed) to be pornographic or sexually explicit.” An acclaimed young adult book about growing up gay, “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” was pulled from the Vero Beach High School library after the group claimed it violated a Florida statute against providing access to pornography to children.