A Rock Springs resident raising concerns Tuesday evening about an upcoming drag show for kids on city property sparked a debate about morality and free speech.
The Broadway Theater in Rock Springs is hosting a reading of Tara Lipsyncki’s children’s book “Letter From The Queen,” Tuesday at 5p.m. The event is billed as a “drag story hour” that’s family friendly.
Rock Springs resident and foster mom Laura McKee protested the city’s perceived involvement in the event Tuesday night during a Rock Springs City Council meeting.
“I don’t think (kids) need to be exposed to this kind of stuff,” said McKee. “Just let them grow up and be who they’re going to be. They can form who they’re going to be later in life, but I think that we’re putting things in their mind that don’t need to be there.”
Council member Tim Robinson sparred with McKee and disputed her concern over others’ children.
McKee said her Christian faith prompts her to be concerned about children in general.
“Being a Christian, do you think that your view should dictate what other parents or guardians do?” asked Robinson.
After some back and forth, McKee answered, “I don’t think we should have (the event).”
Rock Springs Mayor Max Mickelson intervened in the debate.
“I certainly appreciate your right to come here and petition us; it’s the same one that protects their right to do that (event),” said Mickelson. “Either everyone’s rights matter or no one’s do.”
Mickelson went on, saying if the white supremacy group Patriot Front wanted to rent the Broadway Theater to hold a community meeting, “they have every right to do that, no matter how repugnant I find their message.”
Actually, There’s The Patriot Front
Mickelson told Cowboy State Daily in a Wednesday email that in fact, Patriot Front representatives have been raising posters around town, and Mickelson has had to field detractors’ phone calls by defending the group’s free-speech rights.
“The First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution prohibits government agents from restricting free speech,” Mickelson wrote in his email.
Courts will permit governments to restrict some speech within their establishments, such as a schoolteacher restricting the speech of students. But when the government opens its property as a forum for public expression, it cannot within the Constitution restrict any presenter’s speech based on the viewpoint presented.
City Property, Private Show
McKee indicated during the meeting that the city has been giving money to the Broadway Theater.
Mickelson told Cowboy State Daily the city does not now give money to the Broadway Theater, but does own the property.
The city did give the theater a $1.7 million investment about 15 years ago, the theater’s website says.
Either way, Rock Springs is not sponsoring or funding Thursday’sdrag queen story hour, said Mickelson.
“Multiple events are held there by private parties who rent it for their use,” he said in his email. “The politics or perceived politics of those parties are not the business of the city.”
Book Review, Very Brief
“Letter From The Queen” is a cartoon book that reads at about a second-grade level. It follows a young boy, Ben, who prefers stereotypically feminine things, like sparkling outfits, over camping and stoicism.
Dismayed at being bullied, Ben resorts to time alone. But then he receives “a letter from the queen” — the grown-up, woman-appearing version of himself. The queen encourages Ben and tells him he’s brave and has an exciting life ahead.
At the end of the book, the narrator switches from referring to Ben as “he” to “they.”
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.