Jennifer Meeks, the wife of Arkansas state Rep. Stephen Meeks (R), said that she has an odd hobby: She takes “terrible” books out of those little free libraries people find on streets and replaces them with Christian books, including copies of the Bible that she finds at thrift stores. She shared pictures of at least six libraries where she had done this.
A little free library is a box near a public space, like a street or a church, that holds books that people can donate to it and others can freely take in order to promote literacy and build community ties. The national organization, Little Free Library, cites “championing diverse books” as one of its mission goals.
“I hope that if the library sees this there will really be no point in banning LGBTQ books and so they won’t actually do it.”
But for Meeks, a resident of Greenbrier, Arkansas, the little free library program is also a chance to get others to conform to her values.
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“I have been swapping out books in little free libraries for awhile. I have seen good books, terrible books, toiletries, and needles (yes, needles),” she posted on Facebook, along with pictures of local little free libraries.
“Recently I have been picking up free Bibles at flea markets and thrift stores,” she continued. “Sometimes I find good devotion books or kids’ Bible stories at a good price to add. Or just great books, and a gospel tract is a nice idea too.”
She explained that she uses an app to find the little free libraries in Greenbrier and neighboring towns and said that it’s “an opportunity to be salt and light in our communities.”
“From what I have seen, a lot of these books and other things don’t align with our Christian values,” she complained, even though there is no requirement that little free libraries only stock books for Christians. People of all religions or no religion are allowed to use them. “Today I saw a bunch of Pride stuff in one.”
She said that there’s a “group of leftists” that is “very active in keeping little libraries well stocked.” She didn’t name any of these leftists, although she may have been referring to the Faulkner County Coalition for Social Justice, which has funding to keep the little free libraries stocked with toiletries and other necessities people might not have the means to purchase for themselves.
“This is something the silent majority can do. That doesn’t mean we have to stay silent, but this is pretty easy.”
The Arkansas Times, which grabbed the screenshot of the post, said that she either deleted it or changed the privacy settings since she posted it.
The St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas has a little free library in front of it that was included in the pictures Meeks attached to her post. The church posted a reminder on its Facebook page — not mentioning Meeks by name — that their little free library follows the terms set by the national Little Free Library organization. “We expect those who use this library to abide by them.”
One of those terms is “championing diverse books” to make available literature that represents “BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other diverse voices.”
The Faulkner County Coalition for Social Justice responded to Meeks, saying that they use the boxes to distribute “food, toiletries, reproductive care items, and naloxone,” the last one referring to a medication that reverses opioid overdoses by blocking certain receptors in the brain.
“These materials are saving lives. The lives of queer kids who aren’t out to their parents, to the teen that needs Plan B to avoid having a forced pregnancy, to the good neighbor preventing an overdose,” the group posted.
State Rep. Stephen Meeks (R) told The Arkansas Times that his wife has only been replacing “worn-out” books with newer copies rather than removing books she disagrees with. He called claims to the contrary “a complete lie” started by “a leftist activist group.”
“[My wife] is not advocating that anybody take any of the Pride material unless they want to [and then] not for nefarious reasons,” he told the publication. “My wife would not do that. She would not advocate for that. She would be opposed to that.”
Update (8/8/2023): This article has been updated to include comments from State Rep. Stephen Meeks (R)