HOUSTON (CN) — Christian activists who tried to stop Houston libraries from hosting “Drag Queen Storytime” because it allegedly promotes the LGBT community’s “secular humanist” religion lack standing, a federal judge ruled Thursday, dismissing the lawsuit.
The nonprofit RADAR Productions, of San Francisco, started the series over a year ago, bringing drag queens to children’s story circles in libraries, schools and bookstores across America.
Three Christian men, including a pastor, sued Houston Public Library Executive Director Rhea Lawson and Mayor Sylvester Turner in October 2018 after an online petition and a protest outside a city library did not persuade Lawson to cancel the events that the library advertised as “an imaginative storytelling experience.”
“Picture books and songs shared by vibrant performers will excite and instill a love for reading for the entire family,” the library said on its website for the story hours it hosted once a month from August to December 2018.
Lead plaintiff Tex Christopher said in the lawsuit that “‘gay marriage’ is ‘fake marriage’” and that, as a Houston taxpayer and library cardholder, he has standing because the library specially ordered books for the story hours and made flyers for them.
“The plaintiffs believe that LGBTQ ideology is immoral, obscene and subversive to human flourishing and that the LGBTQ ideology is inseparably linked to the religion of Secular Humanism,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs said in the complaint that the library was “brainwashing the children of Houston” while denying Christian groups’ requests to host Christian-related events.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal dismissed their lawsuit Thursday for lack of standing and failure to state a viable First Amendment Establishment Clause claim.
Rosenthal said the men could not prove the threshold issue that they had been injured by the story hour because it’s unclear from their pleadings that any of them attended the events.
“The plaintiffs assert the very opposite: they purposefully avoided ‘Drag Queen Storytime’ because of its alleged immorality and potential to harm their children. Instead of witnessing the event, the plaintiffs ‘researched [it] online,’” Rosenthal wrote in a 19-page order.
Rosenthal said their allegations of injuries are much broader than “Drag Queen Storytime” in Houston libraries, and that shutting down the events here would not redress their grievances.
She said they are using the litigation to “protest the gay-rights movement and the legal rights federal courts have recognized for members of the LGBTQ community.”
Plaintiff Chris Sevier is also a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit in Lafayette, La., that led that city’s library director in October 2018 to “stand down on planning a Drag Queen Story Hour” while the litigation is pending, court records show.
In protest of the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage, Sevier has filed lawsuits in several states, claiming that if same-sex couples can wed, he should be allowed to marry his laptop.
Sevier filed an unsuccessful recusal motion in October in which he said Rosenthal is biased because her mother was the head librarian of a Houston public library for 35 years, and her family has made large financial donations to Houston libraries.
Rosenthal also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that they have standing because they pay sales and property taxes in Houston that were used to fund the story hours.
“The plaintiffs allege the purchase of children’s books and creation of a flyer but fail to allege that either were ‘a measurable appropriation’ of the Library’s $40,000,000 budget, or both cost more than a de minimis amount. These costs, individually or in the aggregate, do not confer standing,” wrote Rosenthal, chief judge of the Southern District of Texas.
She refused to credit the Christians’ claims that because the LGBT community practices the religion of secular humanism, “Drag Queen Storytime” violates the Establishment Clause, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
The judge found that even if she accepted that secular humanism is a religion under the Establishment Clause, there is no evidence that any drag queens discussed it at the events.
“Because the plaintiffs do not allege facts that do or could show that the event is a religious activity, there is no issue of establishment of religion,” she wrote.
In his original complaint, Christopher said he sued “in his capacity as a community leader,” and that he and his co-plaintiffs, including De Factor Attorney Generals and Special Forces of Liberty, “have been violently and/or viciously persecuted by the LGBTQ church and devout members of the Secular Humanist religion for refusing to respect and endorse a worldview that is objectively immoral, obscene, and subversive to human flourishing.”
Christopher told the Houston Chronicle he’s pleased Rosenthal dismissed the case so he can appeal to the Fifth Circuit
“We knew that she wasn’t going to give it a fair shake because this whole case is all entwined with her,” he said.