The far-right activist group Moms for Liberty has caused outrage after two of their members reported a librarian to the police for loaning a child a widely recommended Young Adult novel. Here’s the whole story.
The Boundaries of Literature
In a surprising and somewhat ridiculous turn of events, two members of a Florida chapter of the right-wing activist group Moms for Liberty reported a high school librarian to the police for sharing what they deemed as “pornography” with minors.
The incident revolved around a young adult novel widely recommended for teenagers, raising questions about the boundaries of literature and the interpretation of the law.
Jennifer Tapley, a school board candidate and member of the Santa Rosa County chapter of Moms for Liberty and her fellow member Tom Gurski visited the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office on October 25 to report what they believed was a criminal act.
Tapley described the situation as “pornography given to a minor in a school” and requested to file a report with evidence. Gurski emphasized that their sole reason for being there was to report a third-degree felony, stating they possessed the evidence to support their claim.
Ron DeSantis Referred to the Book as “Child Pornography”
The book at the center of this controversy is “Storm and Fury” by Jennifer L. Armentrout. This popular young adult novel narrates a battle between humans and gargoyles fighting demons, with an 18-year-old protagonist named Trinity.
The novel contains a make-out scene and references to sexual activity. It has received recommendations from reputable sources such as the Florida Association of Media in Education (FAME) and the School Library Journal, and it is rated as appropriate for 14- to 18-year-olds by Barnes and Noble.
During the encounter with law enforcement, Gurski expressed that Governor Ron DeSantis had referred to the book as “child pornography.” Both Tapley and Gurski regarded the situation as a serious crime, equating it to providing explicit adult content to a minor.
Containing Prurient, Shameful, and Morbid Interests
However, under Florida law, a book is considered “harmful to minors” if it predominantly appeals to prurient, shameful, or morbid interests and is patently offensive to prevailing community standards regarding what is suitable for minors.
Author Jennifer L. Armentrout, in an interview, emphasized that “Storm and Fury” was not intended to incite sexual excitement.
She expressed her astonishment at the situation, stating that we are “living in an era where, apparently, some adults find it appropriate to contact the police over a fictional book involving gargoyles.”
Jennifer Tapley clarified her stance, stating that any book featuring a “sex scene” should be categorized as pornography and considered inappropriate for minors.
Debates Over the Boundaries of Literature and Florida Law
While she acknowledged potential exceptions for “extreme classics,” she argued that the books targeted by Moms for Liberty lack significant literary value.
The Sheriff’s Office opted to refer the complaint made by Tapley and Gurski to the director of safety at Santa Rosa County Florida School District.
Subsequently, the case was quietly closed, leaving the debate over the boundaries of literature and the interpretation of Florida law unresolved.
The Definition of Liberty?
Online, the news was met with an outcry over what some viewed as the heavy-handed and overzealous overreaction of Tapley and Gurski to the novel. One such comment read “Isn’t the name of this organization a misnomer? They don’t seem to have a clue what the definition of Liberty is.”
Others online mocked the pair, with one user posting, “If you check the requirements for military enlistment, seventeen years old is old enough to sign up. But don’t read an almost love scene.” Another commenter joked, “So there’s actually a mom named Tom who is a member of ‘Moms for Liberty’?”
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Popartic.
Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.