Library allows Pastor Story Hour event after previously canceling event

Pastor Kendall Lankford reads a book to children at the Chelmsford Public Library on Friday, Jan. 13, 2022.
Pastor Kendall Lankford reads a book to children at the Chelmsford Public Library on Friday, Jan. 13, 2022. | Kendall Lankford

A Massachusetts library that previously canceled a "Pastor Story Hour" event following complaints from residents changed its mind about allowing a local minister to use its space to read to children. 

The Chelmsford Public Library announced the update on its Facebook page, stating that it reinstated the Pastor Story Hour's Friday reservation after receiving advice from legal counsel.

However, the library stated that allowing the event is not a sign of endorsement for it or its sponsors. 

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Kendall Lankford, the teaching pastor of The Shepherd's Church, reserved a Friday morning time slot at the library to teach children about the Lord. Lankford wanted to host the event in response to several libraries nationwide holding drag queen story hour events, which involve men dressing as women and reading to children. 

In a Friday statement to The Christian Post, Lankford claimed the library changed its mind about canceling the event after the pastor obtained legal counsel from the Massachusetts Family Institute.

The pastor and his attorneys submitted a letter to the library on Thursday night.

Lankford said the event was a "huge success," with about 50 people in attendance, including adults and children.

The library told CP in a Friday statement that it has always advocated for free speech and the "principles of respectful and kind treatment of others." The Chelmsford Public Library seeks to serve as a space where its community members feel "valued and welcome." 

"We now recognize … that actions taken subsequent to the approval of the reservation, and communications immediately before the event, seemed to violate some details of library policy and directs hate at members of our community played too large a role in our decision, to the detriment of our commitment to everyone's right to free speech," the library wrote. 

The library issued an apology, acknowledging that it unintentionally erred in its attempt to honor the principles and rights it supports and that it's "unequivocally committed" to allowing Lankford to host his scheduled event.

"Nothing that has taken place over the past couple of days changes the exceptional work that library staff does every day that demonstrates our values and supports our community," the library continued. 

After initially approving the event, the Chelmsford Public Library stated Wednesday on its Facebook page that it only allowed Lankford to use one of its rooms and was not condoning the Pastor Story Hour. 

"Use of a library meeting room by a nonprofit does not indicate endorsement by the library," the statement said. "We support your individual choices as to what to attend and do not advertise or promote any non-library meetings on the library calendar." 

Some responses to the post accused the library of allowing "hate" and sending a message to vulnerable populations that the library is unsafe. Other comments said that permitting the Pastor Story Hour was an example of "blatant discrimination, homophobia, bigotry, transphobia."

In a now-deleted Facebook post, the Chelmsford Public Library said it canceled Lankford's reservation, claiming that the Pastor Story Hour would contradict the library's policies. 

As CP reported, multiple libraries told Christian actor Kirk Cameron last month that he could not host a story hour event to read his faith-based children's book, As You Grow

One library, the Rochambeau Public Library in Providence, Rhode Island, told the actor's publisher that it would not host Cameron due to concerns about a conflict of values. 

"No, we will pass on having you run a program in our space. We are a very queer-friendly library. Our messaging does not align," the Rochambeau Public Library stated. 

Last month, Cameron's publisher, Brave Books, claimed that over 2,500 people attended the actor's story hour event at the Indianapolis Public Library, while the latter said the door count was around 750.

The library also denied allegations that it refused the actor permission to rent a space for the event, claiming that it only said it would not officially partner to promote the event.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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